Series: On This Day In Christian History
Significant Events on This Day:
373: Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria died on this day. Athanasius not only defended the theology of the Trinity but also was the first to list the New Testament canon as we have it. He was exiled many times but remarked, “If the world goes against truth, then Athanasius goes against the world.”
1550: Joan Boucher was burned to death in England for denying that the Virgin Mary was sinless. The minister who preached at her execution made so many errors in his sermon that she told him, “Go read the Bible.”
1559: After serving a stint as a prisoner in the French galleys, John Knox reached Edinburgh to lead the Reformation in Scotland.
1913: The love letters of the Christian poet Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barret were sold. Browning inspired Elizabeth to rise from her sickbed through a faith expressed in terms of positive thinking. They married. He was distressed when she dabbled in spiritualism.
1982: Ailing Pastor Lin Xiangao was arrested in Guangzhou, China, for holding house-church services despite a government ban.
“William Taylor: The Practical Bishop of African Methodists”
William Taylor was born in Virginia on May 2, 1821. He made his mark as a Methodist circuit rider and missionary. The mark he made as a child, however, was probably not much different than that of other boys of his day.
There was the time, for instance, when three-year-old Taylor saw a large cluster of bees hanging down from the front of his grandfather’s hive:
I said, “Ah, my sweeties, I’ll fix you.” So I got an empty horn of a cow and filled it with water and dashed it on the bees. They resented it and speared at me most unmercifully. The lesson I learned was to attend to my own business and not meddle with the affairs of other folks.
Before Taylor was ten, his grandmother taught him the Lord’s Prayer and explained that he could be a Son of God. He longed for the relationship but did not know how to get it. Overhearing the story of a poor black man who had gotten salvation, Taylor wondered why he could not do the same:
But soon after, as I sat one night by the kitchen fire, the Spirit of the Lord came on me and I found myself suddenly weeping aloud and confessing my sins to God in detail, as I could recall them, and begged him for Jesus’ sake to forgive them, with all I could not remember; and I found myself suddenly weeping aloud and confessing my sins to God in detail, as I could recall them, and begged him for Jesus’ sake to forgive them, with all I could not remember; and I found myself trusting in Jesus that it would all be so, and in a few minutes my heart was filled with peace and love, not the shadows of a doubt remaining.
After his conversion, Taylor backslid. Satan, he perceived told him there was no longer forgiveness for him, and for years he lived in dread and misery. But then, when he was a teen, he was restored to Christ, and he became so joyful that he felt he had to tell others. It was the beginning of a long life of evangelism.
Taylor’s greatest torment was to go up to perfect strangers and speak to them about their souls, but he did it until he learned better methods. One technique that he learned was to join people at their work—even logrolling—with their confidence with his brawn and then invite them to hear him preach.
Taylor rode circuits in Virginia and Maryland. In 1849 he accepted an appointment to California, and journeyed there with Annie Kimberlie, his wife, and their two children. When they reached California they lived for a fortnight in the open air before someone relented and took them in. Taylor cut trees and built a home while at the same time he ministered to California’s gamblers, gold diggers and sick.
Annie was four-and-a-half years younger than her husband but looked younger still. People often mistook them for father and daughter. Although deeply in love, they were often separated for years at a time while he led revival meetings and mission work around the world. It was Taylor’s contention that if whalers could leave their families for three years to gather blubber, he could do no less for the greater treasure of souls.
Taylor’s labors took him to every continent. He preached in Canada, Australia, Africa, India, Britain and South America. Wherever he went, hundreds turned to Christ. He became bishop of Africa. With wry humor, he remarked that if he disposed to lay a scheme for killing bishops decently, he would advise that by all means they avoid the highlands of Liberia and remain on the deadly malaria infested coast (William Taylor pictured left).
William Taylor urged that missionaries be self-supporting. By his hard work, he showed how they might become so. Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, is named for him.
Author’s of the Above Article: A. Kenneth Curtis and Daniel Graves edited This Day In Christian History. Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications Inc., 2005. The article above was adapted from the entry for May 2nd.
A. Kenneth Curtis, Ph.D, is president of the Christian History Institute and the founding editor of Christian History magazine. He has written and produced several award winning historical films for Gateway Films/Vision Video’s Church history collection. He is also coauthor of 100 Most Important Dates in Christian History and From Christ to Constantine: The Trial and Testimony of the Early Church. He and his wife, Dorothy, reside in eastern Pennsylvania.
Daniel Graves is the Webmaster for the Christian History Institute and holds a master’s degree in library science from Western Michigan University. He is the author of Doctors Who Followed Christ and Scientists of Faith. Dan and wife, Pala reside in Jackson, Michigan.
John Knox: “A Trumpet’s Voice”
Giffordgate, Scotland, outside Haddington, was an ardently Catholic village containing several churches, two monasteries, an abbey—and a farming couple named Knox who reared a child named John. The lad excelled at Haddington Grammar School where his teacher proclaimed him the most brilliant pupil he had ever had. John entered the University of Glasgow, then St. Andrews University, where the gusts of the Reformation tugged at his Catholic heart.
Knox spent the next 20 years as a village priest and college lecturer. Then one day, listening to a Mr. Williams preach Reformation truth, he was struck as with an arrow. Soon thereafter he “cast anchor” by faith in Christ alone. His Reformation ideas put him at risk, and for years he alternated between flight and imprisonment (once chained to the oars of a galley ship). He finally settled down in relative safety on the Continent where he studied, wrote, discussed, and kept an eye on his native land.
In 1559 he sensed it was time to return. England’s Queen Mary had been replaced by the more Protestant Elizabeth, and the groups of Protestant refugees in Europe were abuzz with excitement. Protestants began streaming back into England, and in late April Knox himself set sail for Scotland, determined to “blow the Lord’s trumpet” gallantly.
He landed on May 2, 1559 to find a nation on the knife-edge of chaos. Mary of Guise, queen regent and mother of young Mary, Queen of Scots, was railing against Protestants. Civil war was threatening. Knox’s presence and preachments so inspired the people that the English ambassador reported, “The voice of one man is able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears.”
The government fought Protestants tooth and nail until June 10, 1560, when the queen regent died. The Treaty of Edinburgh temporarily ended the conflict, and the Reformation took hold. More storms lay ahead, and the aging Knox grew surly. But he managed to lead a bloodless revolution in Scotland and establish the faith of a nation (John Knox pictured at left).
“Sound the trumpet on Zion! Call the people together. Show your sorrow by going without food. Make sure that everyone is fit to worship me” (Joel 2:15).
About the Author: Robert J. Morgan, is the pastor of Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee and the author of the best-selling Then Sings My Soul, From This Verse, Red Sea Rules, and On This Day – this article was adapted from the May 2nd entry in this excellent book. He conducts Bible conferences, parenting and marriage retreats, and leadership seminars across the country.
Peter Waldo – “A Narrow Escape”
Peter Waldo was a wealthy twelfth-century merchant from Lyons, France, an important center of the silk industry. Waldo decided to take literally the words of Mark 10:21: “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” He did precisely that.
Waldo never intended to found a movement; he merely wanted to follow Jesus as the disciples had done. He focused on Christ’s poverty. His followers, known as the “Poor of Lyons,” were sent out two by two to preach and teach the Bible. Waldo had sections of the Scriptures translated into the local dialect to use in their preaching. The Roman Catholic Church was threatened by this ministry of laymen and condemned them as heretics. The Poor of Lyons fled to Languedoc in southern France and across the Alps to Lombardy in northern Italy, suffering persecution along the way. A century later they were found in Germany, still experiencing intense persecution (Statue of Peter Waldo pictured on left).
In 1689 the Waldensians, as they subsequently were called, began what has come to be known as their “glorious return” to the Alps of northern Italy, their adopted homeland. During this same period French Huguenots were also fleeing their country for the Italian Alps. High in the mountains a small group of Waldensian officers, together with their soldiers, made a solemn pact, called the Covenant of Sibaud:
God by his grace, having brought us happily back to the heritages of our fathers, to re-establish there the pure service of our holy religion—in continuance and for the accomplishment of the great enterprise which the great God of armies hath hitherto carried on in our favor—
We, pastors, captains, and other officers, swear and promise before the living God, and on the life of our souls, to keep union and order among ourselves; and not to separate and disunite ourselves from one another, whilst God shall preserve us in life, if we should be reduced even to three of four in number…
And we, soldiers, promise and swear this day before God, to be obedient to the orders of our officers, and to continue faithful t them, even to the last drop of our blood…
And in order that, which is the soul of all our affairs, may remain always unbroken among us, the officers swear fidelity to the soldiers, and the soldiers to the officers;
All together promising to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to rescue, as far as is possible to us, the dispersed remnant of our brethren from the yoke which oppresses them, that along with them we may establish and maintain in these valleys the kingdom of the gospel, even unto death.
In witness whereof, we swear to observe this present engagement so long as we shall live.
Finally on May 2, 1690, their numbers reduced over the hard winter to three hundred men, the Waldensians were entrenched on the mountain crags. Lined up beneath them in the valley were four thousand French dragoons led by the Maquis de Feuquiere. The marquis first attacked during a severe snowstorm, and then commanded his artillery to roll its cannons up the slopes to attack the bedraggled remnant of men who climbed even higher, waiting for death. In his confidence, the marquis had already sent a victory message back to France. But then a miracle happened. A thick fog surrounded the Waldensians, allowing them to escape off the mountaintop during the night! They were saved by God’s hand!
The Waldensian church later united with the Methodists and still exists today.
Have you experienced God’s intervention in your life?
In the case of the Waldensians God did protect the final three hundred men but chose not to preserve those who died earlier in the winter. We should pray for God’s protection, realizing that in some cases he protects his children by taking them to be with himself.
“This I declare of the Lord: he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I am trusting him.” – Psalm 91:1-2
Author’s of the Article Above: Mike and Sharon Rusten are not only marriage and business partners; they also share a love for history. Mike studied at Princeton (B.A.), the University of Minnesota (M.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Th.M.), and New York University (Ph.D.). Sharon studied at Beaver College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Minnesota (B.A.), and together with Mike has attended the American Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College). The Rustens have two grown children and live in Minnetonka, Minnesota. This article was adapted from the May 2nd entry in their wonderful book The One Year Book of Christian History, Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003.