It is the 19th of September 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1692.
It was a time of tumult and transition for the British colonies in North America. A slow trickle of religious dissidents and adventure seekers from the early 1600s gave way to a flood. In 1620 there were roughly 500 British settlers in Plymouth and Virginia. By 1640 the number may have been as high as 27,000. Within 50 years, the population would be hovering around 200,000.
A few years earlier, in 1686, King James II reorganized the colonies under one new charter known as the Dominion of New England. Edmund Andros, the President of the Dominion, was severely unpopular, and soon domestic issues would lead to the crumbling of the newly formed Dominion. Two years into this colonial experiment, the Glorious Revolution in England would upset the apple cart and give the North American colonies some room to breathe.
And it was in 1692, as the colonists were reorganizing their territories, that the original Plymouth Colony was officially dissolved. The famous colony established in 1620 had become a kind of totem of the can-do spirit for would-be colonists. But that model was never likely to succeed. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, always considered more of a long term experiment, was granted the old Plymouth colony. The state of Massachusetts, as we know it today, was on its way.
Also, in 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony would be the first in the western hemisphere to require paper money for payments. The use of foreign coinage or bartering was now illegal. Massachusetts had first issued paper money two years earlier to pay soldiers who had served in “King Williams War.” The paper money was guaranteed by gold and silver and could be exchanged for those precious metals. Of course, soon there were more paper bills than there was precious metal in the bank. Oh, well. Soon the other colonies and then the new country and eventually the world would use this same model.
And it was in that Massachusetts colony, on this the 19th of September in 1692, that the patron saint for “people broken, beaten up, or crushed by the church on the account being on the wrong side congregational politics” was killed, Giles Corey.
Giles Corey was born in England and immigrated to the Massachusetts colony around 1640. Pious, if not hot-tempered, Corey was a successful farmer and full member of the church. That’s an important note because of the halfway covenants at the time. Halfway covenants allowed everyone to attend church, even if they had not yet had a conversion experience. Full members were thus noted for their conversion experience, piety, and devotion to the church. But even as a full member, Corey could not escape the wrath of his church.
Essentially, Corey was a member of a faction in town that opposed the calling of a new pastor. In his province of Salem, this fierce battle over the calling of a pastor soon broke out into wild accusations, the most famous being witchcraft. To discredit the new pastor, the “witch craze” began when the pastor’s own family was charged with the first of the supposed malevolent incidents. And charges went back and forth. Eventually, Corey and his wife were accused of being a witch and a wizard.
Corey, unwilling to dignify the charges, remained silent in court. For this, he was subject to “pressing,” which was a legal means to exact a confession. Corey was stripped, and a board was placed on his body as he lay on the ground. Stones were then placed on the board until a confession was made. With contempt for the false accusations, Corey’s last words were reportedly “more weight.” Giles Corey is the only person to have ever been legally killed by pressing in the new world. However, he wasn’t the only one to be crushed by his own church for a dissenting opinion. Giles Corey, the patron saint of those afflicted by church politics, died on this, the 19th of September, in 1692.
It isn’t just that we failures will get in. It’s that we will probably get in like that! We failures-in-living-the-Christian-life-as-described-in-the-Bible will probably say something like, “You mean it was that simple?!” “Just Christ’s cross & blood?! Just His righteousness imputed to my account as if mine? You gotta be kidding!” “And all of heaven is ours just because of what was done by Jesus outside of me, on the cross — not because of what Christ did in me” – in my heart, in my Christian living, in my behavior?!” “Well, I’ll be damned!” But, of course, that’s the point isn’t it? As a believer in Jesus as your Substitute, you won’t be damned! No believer in Jesus will be. Not a single one!”
That was from Dr. Rod Rosenbladt’s “the Gospel for Those Broken by the Church.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of September 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a technical wizard Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.