Philadelphia Museum of Art Miscellany

On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at a variety of paintings in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Primož Trubar

Who was the “Slovenian Martin Luther”? On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols takes us back to 1508 and introduces us to Primoz Trubar.

Henry VIII’s Last Wife

Being the wife of King Henry VIII was no simple task. On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols introduces us to Catherine Parr, Henry’s sixth and final wife.

The Life of Bunyan

When we think of John Bunyan, we usually think of The Pilgrim’s Progress. But he actually wrote many books. On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols looks at the life of this tinkerer, pastor, and author.

The Most Important Thing to the Reformers, Part 2

Stephen Nichols (SN): Today, I’m joined by Dr. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey. We’re going to finish the conversation we started last week, just as I promised. Gentlemen, welcome back.

Mark Earngey (ME): Thank you very much.

Jonathan Gibson (JG): Good to be here again.

SN: It’s great to have you, not only because you both have accents, but because of this wonderful book, Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present. Last week, we ended the program talking about the role of a Word-centered worship with the Reformers. Now, I mentioned, as you look at the table of contents of this book, there are a lot of the usual suspects showing up from the Reformation in here. There are some names in the table of contents that some of our listeners might not know. So, tell us about one of these figures that we might not know but should know.

ME: We have Johannes Oecolampadius, with whom some of us are more familiar, and others of us should be familiar with. He was a really important Reformer from Basel, who wrote two liturgies that we’ve translated into English, I believe, for the first time. As you read these liturgies, not only do you get a feel for how Word based and Christ centered they are, but you get feel for the thought and care that crafted these liturgies. We spend a little bit of time introducing the liturgy in our book, explaining how Oecolampadius has had an influence on other Reformers, such as John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, and others. I think his influence can be seen in the liturgies that are in this book, that there’s a wonderful cross-pollination of liturgies. You’ll find the obscure people, perhaps whom you haven’t thought about, having profound influence on our worship in the Reformed tradition.

SN: There’s a Polish Reformer in here. Tell us about him.

ME: Johannes Alasco is an incredibly significant Reformer. He was a Catholic bishop, who became an evangelical, served the Lord Jesus in East Friesland and then came to England. He was brought to England by Thomas Cranmer during the English Reformation. He was the superintendent of the so-called Stranger Churches, the foreigner churches that Cranmer had set up in London for exiles from Continental Europe. There was a Dutch congregation, French congregations, and an Italian congregation; and Johannes Alasco was the bishop, or the superintendent, of those congregations. He was a hugely significant figure among the Reformers. He had connections with Bullinger, corresponded with Calvin, was used by Cranmer, and had a great impact on John Knox, among others—a really important figure.

SN: Thank you for not only bringing him to our attention, but also this great work of his liturgies. Dr. Gibson, let me ask you a question as we close out our conversation. You’re a professor of Old Testament. When we think of the Old Testament, we can’t help but think of the worship of a holy God. How did that influence the Reformers?

JG: Very much so. They viewed worship as vertical, primarily, rather than horizontal. Of course, they agreed that all worship that we do together in a corporate setting has edifying ramifications for us, but ultimately, they believe that God had made us as creatures made in His image. We were made to worship Him and enjoy Him forever. One of the ways we do that is that on the Lord’s Day we meet together to exalt Him and speak of what He is worth and why He is worthy of praise, thanks, and glory.

JG: So, as you read these liturgies, you see numerous things, but one of the things is just how God centered they are, and expanding on that, just how Trinitarian they are. Often, the prayers in nearly all of the liturgies will end with a Trinitarian formula: “Through Jesus Christ our Lord, your only Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever praised, world without end, Amen.” Reformation worship has a beautiful God-centeredness to it, and it’s hard to get away from it as you read these liturgies.

SN: Thank you, gentlemen, and thank you for this book, Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present.

The Most Important Thing to the Reformers, Part 1

What is the role of liturgy in worship? On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols is joined in the studio by Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey, coauthors of Reformation Worship.

William Farel

William Farel was born in 1489. He died on September 13, 1565. He was a significant figure in the Protestant Reformation and was the man who, from a human standpoint, was responsible for John Calvin’s coming to minister in Geneva.

Farel was a student at the University of Paris during the early years of the Reformation when Martin Luther was calling for reform in Germany. Luther’s influence had reached Paris, and Farel was right in the middle of the debates over the ideas of the Reformation.

During this time, Farel came under the influence of Jacobus Faber, also known as Jacques Faber, who was a Catholic theologian. Faber was an acquaintance of Desiderius Erasmus, and being influenced by Erasmus’ work, he paid significant attention to the Reformation. Faber helped Farel get his first job as a professor of grammar and philosophy in Paris, and Faber appointed Farel to be a preacher in 1522.

In his position as the preacher for the dioceses, Farel was responsible for appointing other ministers. A number of the ministers he appointed were Protestants. In the course of his interactions with them, these Protestant ministers influenced Farel and introduced him to Luther’s ideas. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Farel was converted and sided with the cause of the Reformation.

Because of his newfound faith and the surrounding controversies, he fled Paris and went to Switzerland. He spent some time in Zurich with Huldrych Zwingli and also spent some time with Luther. Farel saw himself as an evangelist, and in 1530, he set his sights on the town of Neuchâtel and convinced the town to join the Reformation.

After Neuchâtel, he set his sights on Geneva. He was often kicked out of the city, and at one time, he was beaten. In fact, Farel was even shot at because someone was offended by his preaching, yet he would bring the Reformation to Geneva in 1536. That same year, he heard about a man coming through the city on his way up to Strasbourg. This young man was named John Calvin.

Farel convinced Calvin to stay in Geneva. In fact, in Calvin’s own words, he said, “Upon this, Farel, who burned with a marvelous zeal to advance the gospel, went out of his way to keep me.” Here, Calvin is referring to what Farel had said to him, that if he were to leave the city of Geneva, may God curse his studies.

Farel and Calvin were both kicked out of Geneva in 1538. Calvin finally made it to Strasbourg, and Farel went back to Neuchâtel. Their paths continued to cross, as Farel helped Calvin in his search for a wife and officiated at Calvin’s wedding in 1540.

The 60 Pound Commentary

Joseph Caryl was a Puritan pastor who was born in London in 1602 and died on March 10 in 1673. In between those dates of his seventy-one year-old life, he was mostly a pastor. He was educated at Exeter College in Oxford where he received his bachelor of arts in 1625 and his master’s degree in 1627. He was ordained to the ministry and held a post in a pulpit at Lincoln’s Inn from 1632 to 1647. After that, he was appointed as minister at St. Magnus near London Bridge, where he preached from the late 1640s until 1662. That year was called the, “Year of the Restoration.” Charles II was on the throne, the Act of Uniformity was enacted, and this Puritan pastor was kicked out of his pulpit. So Caryl found an independent congregation in London and managed to have the freedom to preach there for the last decade of his life.

You can set Joseph Caryl’s interesting life against a fascinating time in the British reformation. The 1640s was the time of the English Civil War where the Parliament was against the king. This was also the time of the Westminster Standards, and Caryl was part of what we would call the Westminster Divines, the group of ministers who met at the Westminster Assembly to produce the Westminster Catechisms and the Westminster Confession of Faith. He preached many times there, and was often a preacher at various meetings at the different times during the year. He is, however, probably most famous for his commentary on Job.

The commentary was originally published as what are called “quarto volumes.” These are smaller books they are more “hold in the hand” kind of sizes. You take a large piece of paper, called a folio or leaf, which was about 11 x 17 inches, or 12 x 18 or so inches, and you fold it up into four, “quarto,” and that’s the size of the book; twelve volumes that size on Job. But then it was published as two folio sized volumes. Again, that’s about 18 x 12 inches. If you can picture that, it is five and a half inches thick. That’s volume one! Volume two is another five and a half inches thick. So, at almost a foot thick of large paper, each one weighs somewhere around thirty pounds; this is the 60-pound commentary on Job. Archibald Alexander, one of the great Princeton theologians said, “Though this work,” referring to Caryl’s commentary on Job, “possesses great merit, it’s enormous size has been a great obstruction to its usefulness. It has been wittily said that this book is a good exercise of that patience which the book of Job was intended to inculcate and exemplify.” So, you need patience to read it. Each volume has about 2,280 pages, and it’s in double column, and there’s Hebrew text in the margins. Make no mistake about it, this 60-pound commentary is not for the faint of heart.

Tyndale’s Only Surviving Letter

There are many surviving books of William Tyndale. Of course, the most famous one is the Tyndale Bible. But in terms of material from his own hand, only a single letter survives. It is in Latin, and it was written while Tyndale was a prisoner at Vilvoorde Castle in Belgium, about six miles north of Brussels. The castle was built in 1374, and it had a lot of cold and dingy dungeons. This will shed some light on this letter. Let’s read it in full.

I believe, right worshipful, that you are not ignorant of what has been determined concerning me. Therefore, I entreat your Lordship, and that by the Lord Jesus, that if I am to remain here during the winter, you will request the Procurer to be kind enough to send me from my goods, which he has in his possession, a warmer cap, for I suffer extremely from cold in the head, being afflicted with a perpetual catarrh [inflammation in the nose or throat], which is considerably increased in the cell.

A warmer coat also, for that which I have is very thin; also a piece of cloth to patch my leggings: my overcoat is worn out; my shirts are also worn out. He has a woolen shirt of mine, if he will be kind enough to send it. I have also, with him, leggings of thicker cloth, for putting on above; he has also warmer caps for wearing at night. I wish also his permission to have a candle in the evening, for it is wearisome to sit alone in the dark.

But above all, I entreat and beseech your clemency to be urgent with the Procurer that he would kindly permit me to have my Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Grammar, and Hebrew Dictionary, that I may spend my time with that study. And in return, may you obtain your dearest wish, provided it is always consistent with the salvation of your soul.

But if any other resolutions have been come to concerning me, before the close of the winter, I shall be patient, abiding the will of God to the glory of the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ, whose spirit, I pray, may ever direct your heart. Amen.

William Tyndale

Just as Paul did in 2 Timothy, Tyndale asked for his cloak and for his books. Tyndale would spend his last days in the castle at Vilvoorde. He would be led from the castle and martyred on Friday, October 6, 1536. The accounts of Tyndale’s martyrdom say that he was calm, and in fact he said, “I call God to record that I have never altered, against the voice of my conscience, one syllable of His Word. Nor would do this day, if all the pleasure, honours, and riches of the earth might be given me.”

Tyndale faithfully served God throughout his life. He sacrificed much of his life as he was literally on the run as an outlaw trying to translate the Word of God into English so that his countrymen could have the Word of God in their native tongue. Even up until his death, he was faithful to his God.

It is very obvious, too, what Tyndale was thinking about. As he was led to his martyrdom, his final words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” There was no bitterness. He was not angry; he was not trying to get out of the charge. Instead, he was praying for what he had been working for all of his life: that the king—this was Henry VIII—would recognize the truth and would recognize the light of the gospel and that God would somehow work and open Henry’s eyes so that he would see the gospel and the gospel could be preached abroad in his home nation of England.

Johann Sebastian Bach: JJ

Perhaps you know the initials JSB. If you do, you might also expect them to be followed by another set of initials: SDG. JSB refers, of course, to the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who often signed his works with his initials and with SDG for soli Deo gloria—for God’s glory alone. But Bach used other initials on his compositions as well. He would sometimes write JJ (Jesu juva; Latin for “Jesus, help”) or JH (for the German of the same phrase) at the beginning of a composition. Whether he was writing something for the court, for his friend Prince Leopold, or for the church, he would begin his work by petitioning Christ to help him. And when he was done, he would add the initials SDG, for all of his work was done for the glory of God.

Bach was born in the town of Eisenach, which has a great Luther connection. Eisenach sits in the valley below Wartburg Castle, where Luther was holed up after the Diet of Worms. Bach grew up in the town below the Wartburg, so he literally grew up in the shadow of Martin Luther, and he very much appreciated Luther. Bach’s library grew to about eighty theological works, and for the 1700s, that wasn’t bad. Among those books were a number of Luther’s works, and of course he had Luther’s German Bible.

Bach came from a family of musicians. Sometime near the end of the sixteenth century, a musician named Veit Bach fled Hungary because of persecution over his Lutheran faith. He ended up in the German state of Thuringia, and there the Bachs flourished. Johann Sebastian was born March 21, 1685, 202 years after the birth of Luther. With all these musicians and Lutherans in his background, it is no surprise that Bach became a Lutheran musician—arguably, the Lutheran musician.

Bach was married twice; his first wife died. He had twenty children, nine of whom survived into adulthood. He also had a great relationship with Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, and composed many pieces for him. At one point, Leopold got married and his wife didn’t like music, meaning Leopold no longer needed Bach’s services. Forced to look for work elsewhere, Bach ended up working primarily as a cantor at Leipzig from the 1720s through 1750. He was actually not the top candidate for that job. He was third in line, and the other two candidates ahead of him couldn’t accept the position. A town councilor is on record as saying, “Since the best man cannot be obtained we will have to resort to a mediocre one.”

That’s Johann Sebastian Bach, who composed his music Jesu juva, with the help of Jesus, and soli Deo gloria, for the glory of God alone.