Posts by Simonetta Carr

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It was 1862, two days after Christmas. The American Civil War was still raging, when Samuel Brown McPheeters, Presbyterian pastor of the largest church in St. Louis, Missouri, met with President Lincoln to present his plea.
Cotton Mather has a bad reputation, mostly because of his involvement in the Salem Witch Trials. Even if he recommended caution and opposed the executions, his book Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions (1689) did much to feed the hysteria. He is also considered one of the...
Augustus Montague Toplady was one of the many young people who turned to Christ through the ministry of John Wesley. He was also one of the many who called Wesley out on his departure from the teachings of the Reformed confessions.
To bow or not to bow? It was a key question for ministers in the Church of England, in relation to the Lord’s table. Many believed that bowing or kneeling before the table was a mark of idolatry, pointing to the adoration of the elements.
Katherine Parr (1512-1548) is often remembered as the only wife of King Henry VIII who survived the marriage (the previous five were either beheaded or divorced). But she was much more than that. She was an important writer and a major player in the English Reformation.
“ Dimittimini exiteI ” (“You are dismissed, get out!”) With these imperious words, Johannes Bogerman (1576-1637), president of the Synod of Dordt, expressed what many of the delegates were had been painfully thinking. The Remonstrants had to leave.
Agnes Beaumont was gloating on her way to church. She had managed to find a ride against all odds, and what ride! She was sitting right behind John Bunyan, pastor of the church in Bedford. “My heart was puffed up with pride,” she wrote, “and I was pleased that anybody did look after me as I rode...
For twelve long years, Charlotte tried to assert her legal rights to leave Notre-Dame de Jouarre, the abbey which she had been forced to join. Finally, in February 1572, she escaped. The circumstances of her flight are uncertain. Some say she jumped over a wall, others that she took advantage of a...
Kata Bethlen (1700-1752) started her autobiography with her most painful memory: her forced marriage, at age 17, to her Roman Catholic half-brother. Her family – one of the wealthiest and most influential in Transylvania – had firmly adhered, for generations, to the tenets of the Protestants...
In 781, a Saxon monk named Alcuin had an encounter that changed his life and became the catalyst of the dynamic but short-lived Carolingian Renaissance. The man he met was the Frankish King Charles (later known as Charlemagne). As many others him, Charles was struck by Alcuin’s intellect and...
Anyone who is familiar with the works of the Roman playwright Terence (185-159 BC) knows that they are an interesting depiction of the realities of his day. They are comedies, and generally end with a marriage or reconciliation. They could easily find their way into our movie theaters, if some of...
A native of Manchester, John Bradford (c. 1510-1555) started his career as vice-treasurer of the English army in France. An accusation of fraud (which he strongly contested) became the catalyst for a departure from a career for which he already felt unsuited. In 1547, he enrolled at the Inner...
One of the best-selling 17 th -century manuals on parenting was written by a woman, Dorothy Leigh. What may seem perfectly normal to us was unusual in an age when women’s writings were rarely taken seriously. Books on marriage, parenting, and even midwifery were written by men. But Leigh’s...
One of the worst examples of religious persecution in European history happened in the decade between 1671 and 1681, when the Hungarian Roman Catholic authorities determined to eradicate Protestantism from their country.
If it’s true that behind every great man there is a great woman, John Bunyan had a good company of great women behind him.
The German astronomer Johannes Kepler is counted among the greatest scientists in history. He is best known for his three laws of planetary motion, which shaped our modern understanding of the solar system. His achievements expanded beyond astronomy to cover optics and mathematics. But his...
Augustine was a difficult teenager, the kind that keeps parents up at night. The restlessness he would later describe in his Confessions was already evident at a young age, especially to his mother Monica. But she never gave up. She upheld him constantly in prayer, followed him with her thoughts,...
Little known today, Pierre du Moulin was one of the main protagonists of the French Reformation and one of the main defenders of the gospel against semi-Pelagian reinterpretations. He was born in 1568 in the Château de Buhy in north-east Normandy, France, in 1568. His father Joachim was a nobleman...
Mary Rowlandson’s account of her experience as prisoner of war became an immediate best-seller. In fact, it was the first best-seller in America, and the first of what became a popular genre: accounts of captivity among Native American tribes.
Whatever Queen Elizabeth I might have expected by inviting Edward Dering to preach a Lenten sermon in her presence, it was certainly not an outspoken rebuke. Edward Dering was a young, promising preacher, with an outstanding reputation as a Greek scholar. Elizabeth had heard him speak six years...
Marcella became a widow after only seven months of marriage. Being a young and pretty noblewoman, she had no shortage of suitors. Even a consul, Neratius Cerealis (in office from 328 to 358 AD) asked insistently for her hand. He was much older than her, but promised her riches and guidance...
In Spain, Martin Luther’s message met the immediate and fierce opposition of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish rulers, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. To repress it, they had already a powerful tool at hand: the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition,...
I have written about Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, two of the famous three men from Cappadocia (in today’s Turkey) who stood for the divinity, unity, and distinction of the three Persons of the Trinity. I have also written about Macrina, Basil’s sister, who can justly be called “the...
Princess Elisabeth of the Palatinate (also known as Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia) is remembered as the woman who challenged the French philosopher René Descartes to re-examine his assertions on the separation of mind and body. While she never received a satisfying answer to all of her questions,...
An image of the Hungarian Reformer Matyás Dévay Biró shines through a stained window of Wittenberg’s Schlosskirche (Castle Church). He’s in good company, surrounded as he is by other Protestants of his day, such as Peter Martyr Vermigli, Michael Agricola, and his fellow-Hungarian Leonard Stöckel.
Anne Cooke Bacon made her mark on the Church of England in 1563, when she translated John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, which became a statement of faith for the Church of England under Elizabeth I.
It was a difficult time for Puritans like the Bradstreets and Dudleys, who chafed under the religious compromises imposed by Archbishop Laud. In March 1630, Anne, Simon, Thomas, and Dorothy sailed to New England on board of John Winthrop's flagship, the Arbella.
On December 30, 1856, thousands of people followed Hugh Miller’s coffin to the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was dearly loved and respected, particularly for his thought-provoking writings on a wide variety of subjects. As an editor of Miller’s memoirs aptly said, “In choosing him,...
In March 1643, Lady Brilliana Harley received a formal demand to surrender her castle to the royalists. Her husband, Sir Robert Harley, was in London. He had been there since the start of the civil war, leaving her to administer Brampton Bryan Castle and all their goods. Their elder sons, Edward...
When Samuel Miller married Sarah Sergeant, he didn’t know the extent of her pain. Emotional anguish and religious skepticism were not a proper topic of discussion. At least, that’s what her mother had taught her. She had told her doubting was normal, and “especially that [Sarah] should avoid making...
In 1576, Archbishop Edmund Grindal joined the company of Puritans who offended Queen Elizabeth I. His most provocative statement was a reminder of her mortality. He was suspended from his duties for the rest of his life.
Charlotte Arbaleste’s life changed drastically when a young man came to town. Native of Paris, she had found refuge in Sedan, in the French Ardennes, after the disastrous St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. She had been a widow for five years and had no intention of remarrying. To many noblewomen,...
Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) was born ten years after his mother Margaret was pronounced dead. The pronouncement had been mistaken, but she would have indeed been dead if a greedy sexton had not laid his eyes on her precious ring. Under cover of night, the sexton disinterred her body. Finding the ring...
The death of Louis XIV in 1715 revitalized the hopes of the scattered Huguenots (French Protestants). After all, Louis XIV had been responsible for the revocation of the Edict of Nantes – the 1598 law that allowed for the toleration of Huguenots in Roman Catholic France.
Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756) hated Pietism but his music was full of vigorous piety and lively devotion. The difference was in the premises. He (as Luther had done before him) sang about a triune God who works in history and draws us to him through the objective, external Word and sacraments...
“I thank God,” Cardinal Gasparo Contarini wrote as he prepared to travel to Germany, “… for the colloquium, and for the good beginning that has already been made, and I hope in God that irrelevant considerations will not intrude themselves, and that, as I have many times said to his Holiness, there...
Urban Rhegius (1489-1541) held up the papal bull that threatened Martin Luther with excommunication. As cathedral preacher in Augsburg, he had the duty to read it from the pulpit. It was one of his first official tasks since he had taken office a few months earlier.
The news of the trial of young Arsacius Seehofer circulated quickly through Ingolstadt, Germany. He was a student at the town’s university, accused of following evangelical beliefs. The year was 1523, two years after the Diet of Worms. Martin Luther, still outlawed, had just published a German...
The name George Wishart is generally associated with John Knox, one of his most devout followers, who remembered him fondly in his History of the Reformation. By the time Knox heard Wishart exhorting in Leith, Scotland, on 13 December 1545, the preacher had already gained a fame as one of the most...
Just before Easter 1527, Elisabeth of Brandenburg, who had become Duchess of Braunschweig-Calenberg by marriage, received some shocking news. Her mother Elisabeth of Denmark, Electress of Brandenburg, had stunned her court by taking communion after the Protestant rite: both bread and wine, without...
Vincenzo Paravicino was one of the many Italians who lived in today’s Swiss Canton of Grisons. He was born in 1595 in Traona, in a scenic valley on the Italian side of the Alps, known as Valtellina. After completing his basic studies at Zurich’s Collegium Carolinum, he moved to the University of...
Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504-1564) is often nicknamed “the Bride of the Reformation,” because she became successively the wife of four men, three of whom were famous Reformers. Her memory is often limited to this oddity, and her voice to a couple of letters. And yet her influence as a courageous...
Jan Hus is often considered a disciple of the English John Wycliffe and imitator of his views. In reality, much of his thought developed independently, along similar lines.
On December 18, 1381, 15-year old Anne crossed the British Channel with her large entourage. It was a wretched time for travel, but she was on her last stretch of her 700-miles journey from Prague. It was the season for storms, but thankfully the winds rose only after her crossing, destroying her...
Anyone who felt perplexed – even outraged – the first time they read Romans 9 may identify with Thomas Bradwardine, a 14th-century Archbishop of Canterbury. His age was, like ours, entrenched in Pelagianism, exalting man’s free will and ability to come to God on his own terms. That’s the philosophy...
On 24 July, 1536, Conrad Cordatus heard a lecture that troubled him deeply. While commenting on the Gospel of John, the Lutheran preacher Caspar Cruciger said, “Christ alone is the meritorious cause; meanwhile, it is true, in a way, that man must be active in a manner; we must be contrite, and must...
Around 392 AD, 57-year old Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, native of Spain, decided to examine his life. The years had flown by, and he found himself suddenly old. He was, in reality, old according the standards of his time, and his white hair (“the snow on my head” ) stood as witness of the many...
Gottschalk had been preaching in the eastern region of the Alps and in today’s Croatia and Bulgaria, using the castle of Count Eberhard of Friuli (815-866) as his base. His emphasis was on God’s sovereignty and on the absolute necessity of God’s grace in salvation.
“I found all the churches filled, in defiance of the precept of Truth, with those sluttish abominations - images. Since everyone was worshiping them, I undertook singlehanded to destroy them.” These were not the words of a Protestant Reformer. Their author was a ninth-century bishop, Claudius of...
Little is known about Ratramnus. He was a Benedictine monk at Corbie Abbey, in Picardy, France, who had gained an excellent reputation as scholar and writer. Besides his work on the Lord’s Supper (On the Body and Blood of the Lord), he wrote several books, including a popular treatise in four books...