It is the 23rd of December 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The Year was 1648.
It was the final year of the 30 Years War. The Treaties of Münster and Peace of Westphalia finally ended the long continental nightmare. But it was not all peace and bliss across Europe as many uprisings began to pepper the various capitals that had been affected by the War.
In England, the Civil Wars were not an isolated King v. Parliament situation, but rather an extension of the Thirty Years War. Questions of authority were once again at the forefront. If the early Reformation had asked ultimate religious authority questions, these battles blended spiritual and temporal rule questions.
In 1648, one of the more famous sieges of the English Civil Wars took place in Colchester. The walled town in South East England had been a royalist stronghold, and when combined Royalist forces were on the run from Lord Fairfax, they took shelter behind the walls and were bombarded for 11 weeks. It's a sad story with those inside resorting to eating domestic animals as well as wax and soap.
The story goes that the Royalists had a plan to hoist a large cannon up onto a large building to fire at the Roundheads. The story goes that the canon was so large it cracked from the explosion, fell off the wall, and cracked into pieces. I tell this story because someone might say to you that the canon was called "Humpty Dumpty." Numerous killjoys have debunked the story, and I wish they had not.
Imagine being a member of the Church in England during this century, the crown changed church affiliations like trousers, and civil unrest would often follow. By the mid-17th century, the non-conformists were on pace to outnumber those in the church of England.
In 1648, George Fox first founded his Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. This non-conformist group would spread from the British Isles and to the American colonies. This "Society of Friends" would be hounded continuously for, among other things, their refusal to recognize hierarchies. There was no church, nor a pastor, but rather a group of Friends would meet for prayer, and when the spirit-led, they would, while noticeably moving, stand and speak a word.
But a faith that could seem esoteric and anti-intellectual would have problems amongst folks who otherwise grew up as Calvinists, Catholics, or Anglicans. And thus, the Quakers would need an apologist, someone who could take these "spiritual" doctrines and make them understandable. This someone would be Robert Barclay, a man born in the same year the Quakers were founded, 1648, and on this, the 23rd of December.
Barclay's father was related by marriage to the Stuarts. If you know your English history in the 17th century, you will know this isn't always a good thing. Robert's Father, David, spent time in prison, where he met a group of Quakers, and he soon adopted their faith. Robert would often visit his father in prison and came under the influence of these imprisoned non-conformists.
The young Barclay went to study at the Scots College in Rome, where his uncle was rector. His uncle was so impressed that he offered to make Robert his heir if he would convert to Catholicism and stay at the college to teach. Robert declined and headed back to England. Here he would work with George Fox, most famously on his Catechism and Apology for the Quakers. Robert would become a key proponent for those non-conformists that were suffering persecution.
Through King James II, Robert was able to secure land in the colonial province of East Jersey. This would become the first Quaker foothold in America and would inspire Barclay's contemporary William Penn. Barclay never lived in Jersey but was its first governor via deputy. Robert Barclay died in 1690. He was 52, having been born on this day, the 23rd of December in 1648.
The reading for today comes from a 5th century Advent hymn, "Vox clara ecce intonat," translated by Edward Caswals as "Hark! A Thrilling Voice is Sounding!"
1 Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding!
"Christ is near," we hear it say.
"Cast away the works of darkness,
all you children of the day!"
2 Startled at the solemn warning,
from the darkness we arise;
Christ, our sun, all ill dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies.
3 See, the Lamb so long expected
comes with pardon down from heaven.
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
one and all, to be forgiven;
4 so when next he comes in glory
and the world is wrapped in fear,
he will shield us with his mercy
and with words of love draw near.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 23rd of December 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who understands all the king's men helping but isn't sure what was expected of all the king's horses. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, And remember, the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.