<![CDATA[Today in Christian History]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/ Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:18:50 GMT Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:18:50 GMT LemonStand <![CDATA[Michaelius Sailed to America - January 24]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/24/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/24/ Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:18:50 GMT Michaelius Sailed to AmericaNew Amsterdam in 1664

On this day, 24 January 1628, Jonas Michaelius sailed for the New Netherlands (now the state of New York) accompanied by his wife and two of his children. The ten-week voyage was a nightmare. Storms battered the ship, food was poor, and quarters cramped. Much of the time, the captain was drunk and the sailors barely under control. 

Michaelius was the first Dutch Reformed “Domine” (minister) to serve in the New Netherlands. The services of this graduate of Leyden University were desperately needed. The colonists had been making do with “comforters of the sick.” These were men authorized to read Scriptures and sermons, hold prayers, and officiate marriages and baptisms with special permission. 

Upon landing in New Amsterdam (now Manhattan), the forty-year-old pastor immediately organized a church above a grist mill and began holding services for New Amsterdam’s European inhabitants, about two hundred and seventy altogether. Fifty partook of the Lord’s Supper at the first meeting. These included both Walloons and Dutch. (Walloons were French-speaking Protestants.) The Church that he formed became known as the “Marble Collegiate Church”—today the oldest Protestant place of worship in New York City. 

Michaelius’ wife (we do not know her name) died just seven weeks after the family’s arrival in the new world. Michaelius accepted the blow bravely: “The Lord has done it. I must bear it. And what reasons have I to object? For all things work together for good to them who love him … I pray the Lord that neither through this nor through any other trial I shall lose the courage I need so much in this ministry.” 

dvdPeople of Faith, the DVD, surveys the origin and growth of Christiaity in America.

Although he appointed the governor of the New Netherlands as an elder of the church, Michaelius did not always get along well with the colony’s leaders. In fact, he wrote a sharp report about them to his superiors. But in spite of this friction, scarcity of food, and poor living conditions, he remained with the colonists a year beyond his agreement, sailing back to the Netherlands in 1632. 

Five years later the Dutch church recommended his return to the New Netherlands but colony leaders, remembering his earlier bad report on them, rejected the idea. After that, he disappeared from history. We do not know where he served or when he died.

Other Notable Events


Unknown gunmen assassinate Elijah Yisa, an Anglican pastor, discipleship mentor, and evangelist among Nigeria’s Muslims.


Frederick Donald Coggan in his enthronement sermon as Archbishop of Canterbury calls for more people to put themselves forward for ordination.


Thomas De Witt Talmage celebrates his seventeenth year as pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. A noted orator, he is one of the leading pastors of his day and a crusader against vice in New York City. 


Fanny J. Crosby, who will become a notable hymnwriter, is one of seventeen students from the New York Institute of the Blind who give a concert for the United States Congress, and she recites a thirteen stanza original composition calling for the creation of institutes for the education of the blind in every state. This draws “calls for an encore” and earns the congratulations of John Quincy Adams.


The London Provisional Committee issues a circular to the secretaries of the county associations of Independent churches in England and Wales, explaining the objects of a proposed union and inviting the associations to send deputies to a meeting to be held in London in May for considering the scheme.


Harvard appoints theologian Edward Wigglesworth to fill the newly created Thomas Hollis chair at Harvard College, the first divinity professor in America. By casting doubt on Calvinism, Wigglesworth will become a force for the development of Unitarianism in New England. Yale will be founded to counter his liberalism.


The Dutch rout a Spanish force at the Battle of Turnhout, confirming their resolution to never again submit to Spanish rule. 


Belgium issues a mandate against the Mennonites whom it harrasses because of their Anabaptist beliefs.


Tatars bind John of Kazan and mortally wound him with swords when he refuses to convert to Islam.

<![CDATA[Neesima Shimeta, Japan’s Home-Grown Gospel Hero - January 23]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/23/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/23/ Mon, 23 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Neesima Shimeta, Japan’s Home-Grown Gospel HeroNeesima Shimeta

WHEN NEESIMA Shimeta was born, Japan was a closed country. To leave without governmental permission was punishable by death. Neesima learned of the larger world through Chinese books. He believed that Japan’s isolationist laws were shortsighted and weakened the country. His master flogged him because he insisted on visiting Dutch traders to learn their language. But Neesima persisted in going. He would have rather have learned English, because he admired the United States and wanted the Japanese to enjoy liberty like Americans, but there were no English speakers nearby. 

In 1864, the twenty-one-year-old Neesima went to Hakodate, a northern port where foreigners traded. He helped a Russian Orthodox priest there, Nicolai, learn Japanese, with the result that Nicolai was later able to establish the Russian Orthodox Church in Japan. Finally Neesima boarded an American vessel sailing to Shanghai, where he persuaded another captain to take him to the United States. He worked as a cabin boy and the captain taught him English and navigation. In Hong Kong, Neesima sold his sword to buy a Chinese New Testament. He didn’t understand much that he read, but John 3:16 made a strong impression on him. He hungered to learn more about God and learned to pray by reading the novel Robinson Crusoe

Neesima reached Boston in 1865. Unsure what to do next, he asked God to direct him. The answer came through Alpheus Hardy, owner of the ship that had brought Neesima to America. Hardy was so impressed with him, he paid his way through Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. While there, Neesima converted to Christianity and was baptized. Hardy then paid his way through Amherst College and Andover Theological Seminary. 

Nine years after Neesima arrived in the United States, the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions invited him to return to his own country as a missionary. Neesima accepted but said, “I cannot go back to Japan without the money to found a Christian college, and I am going to stand here until I get it.” The delegates raised close to $5,000* to carry out Neesima’s dream. 

In June, 1875, Neesima bought a few acres of land near the imperial palace in Kyoto to found a school. He called it Doshisha, meaning “one endeavor.” There were no foreigners in its administration. His family accepted his Christian message eagerly and because they had a prominent name, others listened. Thirty young samurai who had accepted Christ through hearing the Gospel from an American teacher of English came to study with Neesima. Many of them would go on to high positions in government. 

Neesima’s health was weak. When he died on this day, January 23, 1890, he was just forty-six years old. His final words were “peace, joy, heaven.” 


* The purchasing power of $5,000 for a building project in the United States of 1870 would be around a million dollars, although its power to buy food and household commodities would be only $100,000.

Other Notable Events


A Turkish higher court declines to say whether charges should proceed against novelist Orhan Pamuk for “insulting Turkishness.” Pamuk had said, “Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it.” The Armenians were descendants of early Christians.


Hindu extremists burn to death Australian missionary Graham Staine and his two sons in their jeep, forcing them back into the burning vehicle when they try to escape the flames.


Funeral of Spetume Florence Njangali, a priest in Uganda’s Anglican Church. A hard-working woman of great ability, she had struggled long to obtain priestly ordination for women.


Polish Communists take over the offices of Caritas, a Roman Catholic humanitarian agency, hoping to reduce the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.


Nazis execute Helmuth James von Moltke, having said “the only trouble with you is you are a Christian.”


In an early example of parachurch activity, representatives of a number of Protestant men’s movements meet in Chicago to federate in a loose coalition for mutual information and for co-operation. Among the participating organizations are the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, as well as Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Congregational brotherhoods.


Death of clergyman and educator Phillips Brooks, opponent of slavery and author of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”


Charles Perry arrives in Australia and will become the first Anglican bishop of Melbourne.


Lott Carey, a Baptist, sails with 28 colleagues from Norfolk, Virginia, to Sierra Leone to become the first African-American missionary to Africa.


Father John Carroll establishes Georgetown College which will become Georgetown University.


Blaise Pascal publishes his first Provinical Letter, weighing in on the French controvery between Jansenists and Roman Catholics.


The Moscow Patriarchate is created, making the Russian Church autocephalous, that is, subject to no higher bishop. However, there are some details regarding precedence and signatures that will not be ironed out for about four years.


The Union of Utrecht joins several Dutch states against oppressive Spain.


Death of Johannes Honter, a humanist scholar, theologian, and the reformer of Transylvania.

<![CDATA[John Berridge and the Neglected Gospel - January 22]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/22/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/22/ Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT John Berridge and the Neglected GospelJohn Berridge

FOR TWENTY YEARS, John Berridge was known as “the old devil” by the clergymen around Everton (a district of Liverpool in England). They grumbled against him because he preached to the people of their parishes—souls they had neglected. Not only that, but he used illustrations they considered in bad taste, and people sometimes shrieked and jerked when he preached. 

It wasn’t always so with Berridge. He originally determined to enter the church only because it presented a better living than farming. After completing his studies at Cambridge, he accepted a pulpit in Stapleford, where he urged his listeners to become better people. After six years, he could not point to a single changed life. 

He moved on to Everton. One day a voice spoke to him clearly. “Cease from your own works; only believe.” He began to preach faith in Christ. At once people got converted and demonstrated changed lives. Berridge burned all his old sermons. What good were they? When word got out, this created quite a stir and prompted even more people to listen to him. Soon he began preaching in neighboring parishes whose clergymen neglected the Gospel. Threatened with jail for doing this, he said “A kick from the world does believers less harm than a kiss.” 

When clergymen barred him from speaking in their pulpits, he preached in barns and in fields. He had such a good voice that fifteen thousand people could hear him at once. His bishop rebuked him for preaching “at all hours and on all days.” “My lord,” said Berridge, “I preach only at two seasons.” Asked what they were, he quoted from Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “In season and out of season, my lord.” 

Berridge gave almost every penny of his income to further the gospel and meet people’s needs. Although he preached a serious message, he did so with such wit that he was able to send friends into convulsions of laughter. 

On this day, 22 January 1793, Berridge died. His epitaph, which he wrote himself, described him as an “itinerant servant of Jesus Christ, who loved his master and his work, and after running on his errands many years was called to wait on him above.” It then asked, “Reader, are you born again?” 

Berridge was the author of hymns. One begins, 

O happy saints that dwell in light,
And walk with Jesus clothed in white,
Safe landed on that peaceful shore,
Where pilgrims meet to part no more:
Released from sorrow, toil and strife,
Death was the gate to endless life,
And now they range the heavenly plains
And sing His love in melting strains.

Other Notable Events


To the extreme disappointment of many Christian groups, the United States Supreme Court hands down the Roe v. Wade decision that allows abortion even in cases where it is not necessary to save a mother’s life.


Death of John Roberts, Episcopal priest and missionary to the Shoshone and Arapahoe Indians of Wyoming. He had been notable for his efforts to preserve the culture and languages of the tribes, translating the Bible into two Indian languages.


Death of Liang Xiaochu, one of the most influential Chinese Christian leaders in the early part of the twentieth century. He had greatly increased YMCA membership but watered down its Christian component and stressed character and education instead.


Death in Jewett City, Connecticut, of Mary Haughton Brown, a Baptist teacher and hymnwriter. Most famous of her hymns had been “I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go.” Her death was caused by the infamous influenza pandemic that killed millions world-wide that winter.


Death of hymnwriter Anna Bartlett Warner, most famous for the chidren’s hymn “Jesus Loves Me.”


Death of John Dykes, who had written some well-known hymn tunes, two of which we sing to this day: “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.”


Ambatonakanga Memorial Church opens in Madagascar in honor of Christians marytered under the cruel queen Ranavalona.


Burial of St Macarius at Zhabyn, opposite the Orthodox monastery he had founded. He had been an ascetic who allegedly performed great miracles.


(probable date) Martyrdom of Vincent of Saragossa, Spain’s first famous martyr, who had been starved, racked, exposed in the stocks, and partially roasted.

<![CDATA[Thirteen-Year-Old Agnes Dies for Her Faith - January 21]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/21/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/21/ Sat, 21 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Thirteen-Year-Old Agnes Dies for Her FaithAgnes of Rome

WHEN AGNES WAS A GIRL of twelve in fourth-century Rome, boys began vying for her hand in marriage. Thirteen was a common age for a girl to marry in those days, especially if her family were well-to-do. Agnes, it seems, was from a noble family. However, she was not interested in marriage. Having become a Christian, she was devoted to Christ. 

According to a persistent legend, one of her suitors was named Symphronious, the son of a prefect (Roman magistrate). His desire for the girl drove him to distraction. When the prefect learned of this, he brought Agnes in and pleaded with her to marry his son. She refused, revealing that she was a Christian. 

The prefect ordered Agnes to sacrifice to Vesta, the virgin goddess of hearth and home. When she made the sign of the cross instead, he was furious. Tradition says he tried to break her spirit by throwing her into a public whorehouse. At the very least, he humiliated her. Bishop Ambrose of Milan (who lived later in the same century) said the prefect had her stripped naked. Despite this effort to shame her, Agnes clung to her integrity and her faith. 

Next the prefect is supposed to have threatened to burn the girl alive, but the fire would not burn her. Whether fire was merely a threat, or the wood slow to catch fire, we do not know. She died on this day, 21 January 304,* when an executioner either stabbed her in the throat or cut off her head. Accounts vary. 

The execution shocked Rome. Romans asked what was so threatening about a thirteen-year-old girl, especially since the law forbade execution of virgins. That a young girl should be killed merely over a refusal to marry outraged nobler-minded citizens. Agnes’s fortitude despite her sex and age made a deep impression on them. Possibly her death helped bring the persecution to an end. 

Agnes quickly became a favorite saint. The church added her to its calendar of martyrs. Constantine erected a church at the site of her grave. Pope Damasus wrote an epitaph for her. Prudentius composed a hymn in her honor. Legendary acts (stories of saints) appeared which told about her. Ambrose spoke of her in his book De virginitate (On virginity). John Keats, a Romantic poet, even wrote a poem called “The Eve of St. Agnes” in 1819 about a girl who elopes—an action completely contrary to the spirit of the martyred girl. 

The memory of Agnes even affects the consecration of bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. Her symbol is a lamb because her name, which means “pure” in Greek, is similar to the Latin “Agnus,” which means lamb. When popes want to show that a bishop is legitimate, they send him a cloth called a pallium, woven from the wool of lambs consecrated on St. Agnes’ Day. 

Agnes’s parents buried her in a tomb on the Via Nomentana. Her bones have been examined by experts who say she really was just thirteen years old.



* Some scholars think the evidence points to a third-century execution.

Other Notable Events


Pope John Paul II begins a visit to Cuba, emphasizing the need for fundamental human freedoms.


Elders of the Little Flock and twenty-eight other Christian leaders in Shanghai are arrested. They have carried on the work begun by Watchman Nee, who is in prison.


Soviets execute the Orthodox priest Peter Alexeyevich Bulgakov for “agitation against Soviet power.” He had long resisted their efforts to get him to abandon his faith and three months before his death had refused to hand over church keys to them.


Presbyterian minister Samuel McCrea Cavert, a notable ecumenist, becomes the General Secretary of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America. A chief player in forming the World Council of Churches, he will die in 1976. “The temptation of Protestantism has always been to magnify freedom at the expense of unity. The temptation of Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, has been to magnify unity at the expense of freedom.”


The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau is organized in New York City to inform the general public about The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.


Death of Fanny Coppin, an ex-slave who became an educator to her people, principal of the Institute for Colored Youth, an inspiration to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a missionary to South Africa.


At the Academy of Music in Kansas City, Charles Parham preaches his first sermon dedicated soley to the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.


Robert Aitken petitions the U.S. Congress to officially sanction his publication of the first English-language Bible printed in America.


Newly-ordained missionary Christian Friedrich Schwartz embarks from London for Tranquebar, the seat of the Danish Mission in India. Four months after arriving, he will preach his first sermon in Tamil and afterwards will conduct a successful work.


A Bedford, England, congregation calls John Bunyan as its pastor. He is in prison at the time for preaching.


The English parliament passes “An Act for Uniformity of Service and Administration of the Sacraments throughout the Realm” which establishes the first Book of Common Prayer in Edward’s reign.


Anabaptists come into being in Zurich when Conrad Grebel baptizes George Blaurock.


Hans Denck, a schoolmaster who argues that Lutheran reform is empty unless accompanied by the inward light of the Spirit, is banished from the city of Nuremberg.


Matthew Paris is clothed as a novice. He will be remembered as a monk who chronicled English history.


Death of Pope Paschal II. During his troubled pontificate, he had been faced with four anti-popes and suffered captivity at the hands of Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V, who extorted concessions from him.


Pope Adrian III rules in favor of Rothad who had deposed a priest for unchastity and called a church council. Bishop Hincmar had argued that Rothad, as a suffragan (assistant) bishop, did not have authority to do either.

<![CDATA[Andrew Bryan’s First Baptist Church - January 20]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/20/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/20/ Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Andrew Bryan’s First Baptist ChurchBryan Street African Baptist Church

ANDREW BRYAN was a slave in Savannah, Georgia, who became a Christian while listening to another slave, George Liele, preach on the text “You must be born again.” After Liele left Savannah, Bryan began to preach himself. 

Afraid that slaves who listened to black preachers would rise up in rebellion, Georgia’s plantation owners soon whipped and imprisoned Andrew Bryan. Afterward, he held up his hand and declared that “he would freely suffer death for the cause of Christ.” The slaves under his teaching prayed for their persecutors. 

Bryan’s master was upset at what had been done to Bryan. He gave him the use of one of his barns as a church after Bryan went to court and obtained permission to hold church services. 

In 1788, Bryan bought his freedom. Abraham Marshall, a white minister, and Jesse Peter, a black minister, ordained him on this day 20 January 1788. Bryan founded Bryan Street African Baptist Church. Many whites admired his spunk and attended his sermons, although he had little learning beyond a sound understanding of the Gospel. Few of his members could read or write. 

The resolute soul-winner soon bought the land for a sanctuary and by 1800 his congregation had grown to over seven hundred members. The Bryan Street church became the First Baptist Church of Savannah. It provided Savannah’s first Sunday school for African-Americans, operated by a black man named Henry Francis, whom Bryan had ordained. 

When Bryan died in 1812, he left a legacy of African-American Christianity which is still remembered and admired. He also left his wife a free woman with a home and property to support her.

Other Notable Events


Roman Catholic bishop Anton Vouk is ambushed, doused with gasoline in Yugoslavia, and set on fire, probably by government hit men. By quick action he manages to save his own life but will suffer from the injuries until his death.


Death of Johann Adam Ernst, early pioneer pastor of the Missouri Synod in Canada.


In 1875 Fredrik Franson, an evangelist among Minnesota's Swedish immigrants and author of Mormonism Unveiled and a treatise on church growth, is ordained by the Free Church at Phelps Center.


Clara Swain arrives at Bareilly, India, and begins medical mission work the same day.


Death of English hymnwriter Harriet Auber, who had led a quiet and contented life, publishing only one volume, The Spirit of the Psalms. Many of her hymns will appear in hymnbooks.


Thomas Charles, who will become a leader of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, converts to Christianity while listening to Daniel Rowland preach.


Death in London of English translator Miles Coverdale, who produced the first complete printed English-language Bible.


Bishop Simeon of Beth Ashram from the region of Arabia, travels from the Lakhmid capital Hirta d Na`man and learns of several martyrdoms, especially of holy women, which he records in various letters and wrtings.


Death of Euthymius the Great, who had been an abbot in Palestine and a hermit noted for his holiness.


Death of Fabian, bishop of Rome, under the persecution of Emperor Decius. 

<![CDATA[Bishop Henry Felled After Converting Finland - January 19]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/19/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/19/ Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Bishop Henry Felled After Converting FinlandHenry of Uppsala

IN THE TWELFTH CENTURY AD, Finnish pirates foraged in the Baltic, preying on the Swedes. King Eric IX of Sweden fought and overcame them. He offered the Finns friendship and Christianity, but they chose war, so Eric invaded their lake-dotted land in 1154 and annexed it as a province of Sweden. 

Accompanying Erik on his crusade was an English-born bishop named Henry, friend of another English churchman, Nicholas Breakspear (later Pope Adrian IV). Henry, at this time bishop of Uppsala, had labored successfully as an evangelist in Norway and Sweden. In Finland, he made his headquarters at Nousiainen and proceeded to preach to the Finns, whom he converted and baptized. No doubt his efforts were aided by the fact that the Finns already had some knowledge of Christianity, as is shown by the existence of Christian crosses from an earlier period. 

He was able to work in Finland only a few months. A Finn named Lalli murdered him on a frozen lake on this day, 19 January 1156.* Tradition says Henry had excommunicated Lalli for murdering a Swedish soldier. However, an early Finnish account says the bishop incurred Lalli’s wrath by compelling Lalli’s wife to give Henry food for himself and fodder for his horse. 

Either way, the seeds Henry planted made Finland a Christian nation around 1160. After Henry’s death, Finns regarded him as their patron saint. By a century and a half later, popes were referring to him as a saint, too. Other Christian workers revived the Finnish church from time to time and during the Reformation, Finns in large part converted to Lutheranism. Today about 85% of Finns are Lutheran. 


* Some sources say the 20th.

Other Notable Events


An outpouring of God’s Spirit follows a fervent prayer by the seminarian Raymond Buana Kibongui at the Undergraduate Bible Seminary of Ngouedi (in what is now known as the Republic of Congo). Swedish missionaries and Congolese seminarians and pastors had been praying for a spiritual revival.


The Hymn Society of America is formed to improve the music and poetry of Protestant hymns and write new hymns relevant to contemporary life.


Soviets execute the Orthodox priest Peter Skipetrov who had denounced communism boldly in his sermons.


Death of Henry Twells, a clergyman in the Church of England, a preacher of power and author of the hymn “At Even, E’er the Sun Was Set.”


Mel Trotter staggers drunk through Chicago, determined to drown himself in Lake Michigan, but comes to the Pacific Garden Mission, enters, and is converted. Three years later, alcohol-free, he heads a rescue mission in Grand Rapids and eventually founds the Mel Trotter Mission.


Death in Oxford, Georgia, of Atticus Greene Haygood, who had been an editor, an author, and the president of Emory College, as well as a progressive bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, advocating fair treatment and full education of African Americans.


Death of hymnwriter Georgiana L. Heath who had written “For the Presence of the Springtime” and “Ye Soldiers of Jehovah.”


The Finnish Missionary Society is organized.


H.M.S. Dido reaches Banner Cove, Patagonia, and finds dead missionaries, whose diaries show that “Arise, My Soul, Arise” was one of last songs they sang.


Death of John Erskine, a Scottish evangelical minister connected with Scotland’s eighteenth-century revivals.


Reformed scholars issue the first full edition of the Heidelberg Catechism, a Calvinist statement of faith written by Peter Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus. It will soon be accepted by nearly all of the Reformed churches in Europe.


Vikings wipe out the monastery on the Isle of Iona. They allow its monks to celebrate mass before slaying them.

<![CDATA[Constantin Tischendorf and the Sinaiticus Controversy - January 18]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/18/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/18/ Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Constantin Tischendorf and the Sinaiticus ControversyConstantin Tischendorf

CONSTANTIN TISCHENDORF, famous for bringing the Codex Sinaiticus (a rare Bible manuscript) to the west, was born in Langenfeld, Saxony (now part of Germany) on this day, 18 January 1815. Studying at the University of Leipzig, he became interested in questions of New Testament authenticity. He desired to reconstruct the original text of the Bible from the oldest existing manuscripts. After completing his Ph.D. in 1838 he examined texts throughout Europe, especially at France’s great library, the Bibliothèque Nationale. Afterward, he traveled to the Middle East “to recover if possible the genuine apostolic text which is the foundation of our faith...” He accepted hardships and made many sacrifices in pursuit of this work. 

In May of 1844, at the monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, he saw a basket filled with tattered parchments. The librarian said two similar baskets full had been used to kindle fires.* Among the scraps in the basket he counted one hundred and twenty nine pages of a Greek Old Testament, dating from the 4th century. Seeing Tischendorf’s enthusiasm, the monks became cautious and allowed Tischendorf to take only forty-three leaves. 

He visited the monastery again in 1853 but was unable to obtain more of the manuscript. But six years later, he made another trek to Sinai. On the last day of his visit, a steward brought down “a bulky kind of volume, wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me.” Unrolling the cover, Tischendorf found not only the fragments he had viewed fifteen years before but also a complete New Testament, the Epistle of Barnabas, and part of the Shepherd of Hermas. He pretended nonchalance and asked if he might take the manuscript to his quarters to look it over at more leisure. There he feverishly copied the first pages of the Epistle of Barnabas for which no good Greek original had yet been found. 

Eventually Tischendorf returned to Cairo, where he coaxed the abbot, who was at that moment on his way to a conference, to send for the manuscript. Despite heat and weariness, Tischendorf copied all 110,000 lines in a few days. The monks reluctantly allowed him to take the manuscript to Russia for photographic reproduction and Tischendorf issued a receipt promising to return it. When the monks found some missing leaves they forwarded them to him, showing that good will still existed between them at that point. However, after Tischendorf presented the codex to the Tsar as a gift, the monks accused him of duplicity and asked the Russians to return it. The Russians convinced them to sell it instead. In 1933 cash-strapped Communists re-sold Sinaiticus to the British Museum for £100,000. 

Codex Sinaiticus proved invaluable for checking the accuracy of modern translations. Interestingly, the last verses of Mark and the story of the woman taken in adultery (John 8) were not included, suggesting they were later additions to Scripture. 


* Some scholars consider this account by Tischendorf false, pointing out that the monastery preserved three thousand manuscripts—many for a millennium or more. Tischendorf’s defenders replied that the monks allowed a thousand other manuscripts to lie buried for two hundred years under a collapsed building.

Other Notable Events


Death of Roberta Martin, an innovative gospel singer and organizer of the Roberta Martin Singers. Many singers got their start through her. Her signature song had been “Only a Look.” Fifty thousand will turn out for her funeral. In 1998, the United States Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp in her honor.


Death in Dohnavur, India, of Amy Carmichael who had rescued children from temple prostitution and written many inspirational Christian books.


Peter Dyneka gives his heart to Christ and experiences such a total transformation that his landlord accuses him of being drunk. He will help found the Russian Gospel Association.


Death in Penkridge, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) of missionary Louisa M. R. Snead, author of the hymn “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.”


Death in Wellington, South Africa, of Andrew Murray, pastor, revival leader, inspirational author, and founder of a seminary.


Consecration of the first Armenian church in the United States, at Worcester, Massachusetts.


Death of Richard Harvey Cain, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, formerly an abolitionist and congressman. He had helped found Paul Quinn College and served as its president until 1884.


Alone, and on foot, to save his poor congregation the expense of his travel, Theodor Fliedner enters Kaiserswerth where he will labor for his entire life and found the Lutheran deaconess ministry for which he is famous. A month after his arrival the city’s main source of employment will fail and the government will offer Fliedner a better appointment, but he will refuse to leave his people as if he were merely a hireling. Instead he will make a laborious journey across Germany to raise money for an endowment to support the Kaiserwerth church.


The church at Housatonic dismisses pastor and theologian Samuel Hopkins, resenting his opposition to the Halfway Covenant and his terrible sermon delivery.


Greenland’s first Lutheran baptism takes place.


James Mitchell is hanged in Edinburgh, denied permission to see his wife and newborn son or to read his final confession of faith. Years earlier he had attempted to assassinate Archbishop James Sharp, a cruel persecutor of Covenanters. Captured, Mitchell was promised in writing full liberty if he confessed, but the promise was revoked and he was tortured with great cruelty. In 1679 a mob will murder Archbishop Sharp in retaliation.


After a public debate the day before between Anabaptists and Zwingli, the Zurich council mandates that all infants must be baptized within eight days. Persecution of Anabaptists soon follows.


Pope Pius II issues his bulla Execrabilis, condemning as detestable any appeals against the pope to councils.


Death of St. Margaret of Hungary, princess and Dominican nun.

<![CDATA[Death of Famed Hermit, Antony of Egypt - January 17]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/17/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/17/ Tue, 17 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Death of Famed Hermit, Antony of EgyptAntony of Egypt

ANTONY WAS THE SON of Christians in Coma, near Egypt’s southern border. His parents kept him somewhat secluded from the world, shielding him from the evils of his day. When he was eighteen his mother and father died, leaving him with one hundred and twenty acres and a young sister to care for. 

Six months after the deaths of his parents, Antony was meditating on the sacrificial lives of the early Christians as he walked to church. They had left everything to follow Christ, he knew, and consequently could look forward to great rewards in heaven. As he entered church, he heard someone reading Christ’s words to the rich young ruler: “If you would be perfect, go sell all you have and give it to the poor; then come follow me and you shall have treasure in heaven.” 

Antony took the words literally. At once he sold his possessions, making provision for his sister, and distributed the rest of the money to the poor. He became a hermit, first in his own town and gradually in more remote places. 

There had been hermits before him, but he surpassed them in fame. Through ascetic practices—fasting, holding vigils, wearing uncomfortable clothing, and neglecting his body—he hoped to overcome temptation. Athanasius, patriarch (head of the church) of Alexandria, wrote a Life of Antony which describes demonic attacks that the solitary saint overcame. It also told of a vision of heavenly light which empowered Antony and silenced the devils. 

Try as he would, though, Antony could not escape the intrusion of others. Hermits learned of his whereabouts and sought his advice. Common people asked for his prayers. He healed the sick, counseled the suffering, cast out demons, and preached. In 311, during a great persecution, Antony traveled to Alexandria and stood in court with accused Christians, hoping to attain martyrdom himself. In this he was disappointed and went back to the desert. 

Late in his life, while Antony was living in solitude near the Red Sea, Athanasius asked him to come to Alexandria to speak against the heresy of Arianism. Antony did. He had only a year left to live. 

When Antony realized he was dying, he asked two monks to bury him in a secret place, afraid that his remains would be revered. He died on this day, 17 January 356, at the ripe age of either 104 or 105. After his death, his fame continued to spread because of Athanasius’s Life, which inspired ascetic practices and the growth of monasticism wherever it was read. Eventually, it contributed in part to the conversion of Augustine of Hippo.

Other Notable Events


The Supreme Court of India (Hindu) rules that the successful work of a Christian evangelist is a threat to the “freedom of conscience” guaranteed to all citizens of India.


Death of Clara Clerget, French-born nun (Sister Anne-Marie of the Visitation), who had spent over fifty years as a missionary in Madagascar, most of it working with leprosy patients. Her radiant personality had attracted much attention and so she will be treated with high honors at her funeral.


Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish Lutheran diplomat, is last seen alive by his friends after Soviets take him into custody. His resourcefulness had saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during Nazi occupation. He will be remembered with other Righteous Gentiles in the Episcopal Church calendar on July 19.


Death of Charles Gore, founder of the Community of the Resurrection, an Anglican monastery. He had been an author, a bishop, and an advocate for social justice.


Edict of St. Germain is issued, allowing Huguenots to preach in France.


Zurich City Council holds a public debate on infant baptism, which reformer Ulrich Zwingli has mandated as a covenantal act, but which Anabaptists such as Conrad Grebel and Felix Manz oppose, saying that baptism symbolizes a believer’s commitment to Christ and therefore must be entered into by adults with understanding.


Pope Gregory XI enters Rome from Avignon, hoping to put down an Italian revolt against him. He will send  Robert of Geneva (later antipope Clement VII) with a company of ferocious Breton adventurers to crush the rebellion with atrocities, but it will continue. In about a year, Gregory will die, leaving the situation worse than it was.

<![CDATA[Backus Founded Middleborough Baptist Church - January 16]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/16/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/16/ Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT Backus Founded Middleborough Baptist ChurchIsaac Backus

ISAAC BACKUS grew up during the Great Awakening—a spiritual revival of the eighteenth century that turned many Americans to Christ. Alarmed for his soul, seventeen-year-old Backus asked his pastor how he could be saved. His pastor was unsure. Powerless and frightened, Backus went about his business, praying desperately that God would show him what to do. One morning, while he was mowing a field, peace settled on him. “I was enabled by divine light to see the perfect righteousness of Christ and the freeness and riches of his grace.” 

It seemed a shame to Backus that anyone should be left in darkness about salvation. He studied the Scripture, determined to be able to explain salvation to others. When he was twenty-two he began to preach. Two years later a “separate” church in Titicut, Massachusetts invited him to be their pastor. Separates had left the established Congregational church, considering its ministers spiritually dead. Backus accepted their call, pleading with the Lord to keep him from “any snare or evil way.” 

Backus led the Separates for about eight years. However, as he studied Scripture, his views on baptism changed. The Separates believed baptism was for infants, but he became convinced it was only for Christians old enough to understand what they were doing. Although he accepted differences on the issue, his congregation became hostile to him and they parted ways. 

On this day, 16 January 1756, Backus formed the first Baptist church in neighboring Middleboro. From this base he rode 1,200 miles a year as an evangelist throughout New England. The number of Baptists in the region increased from 1,500 to 21,000, largely through his efforts. He also helped found Rhode Island College (Brown University), America’s first Baptist college, and wrote a history of the Baptists in New England. 

In the eighteenth century, Massachusetts taxed all alike to support Congregational churches. Anyone who refused to pay the tax could be harassed. Authorities jailed some and seized the property of others. Backus gathered the testimony of hundreds who had suffered harassment. He testified, wrote letters, printed pamphlets, and spoke throughout Massachusetts to make others aware of the problem. When he himself refused to pay the church tax, authorities jailed him, releasing him only because an anonymous benefactor stepped in and paid his tax. 

For all his efforts, Backus did not live to see separation of church and state in Massachusetts. He died in 1806, but state funding of Congregational churches continued until 1833.

Other Notable Events


United Methodists disturb many fellow Methodists and other traditional Christians by “blessing” a lesbian couple before fifteen hundred people in Sacramento, California. The women were lay leaders who had lived together for fifteen years.


Abraham Odekunle Aiki returns to his home town in Ilero, Nigeria, where for more than forty years he will preach, visit, pray, and study. His church will grow from thirty-nine members to over one thousand, and he will plant several new churches and establish a school where none had previously existed.


Death of Charles P. Chiniquy, who had been a Catholic priest but, following disciplinary action, left the church and became a popular American agitator against Catholicism and the author of the anti-Catholic book, Fifty Years in the Church of Rome. He had also blamed Lincoln’s assassination on a Catholic conspiracy.


Reformer Henry Thornton dies at William Wilberforce’s house. A banker and Parliamentarian, he had been the financial brains behind the social schemes of the philanthropic and anti-slavery group known as the Clapham Sect.


Virginia adopts a statute for establishing religious freedom authored by Thomas Jefferson.


Death of Blessed Maximus, Priest of Totma in Vologda District, a “fool for Christ” who had continually fasted and prayed. The Orthodox consider him a saint because of miracles alleged to have occurred at his tomb.


Archbishop William Laud consecrates St. Catherine Cree Church, in Leadenhall Street, London, with ritual and ceremony that his detractors consider excessive and counter to Reformation or Puritan tendencies.


Puritan John Rainolds suggests to King James I “that there might bee a newe translation of the Bible, as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek.” James will grant approval the next day. Seven years later, the Authorized Version (King James Version) will be published.


Death of Georg Spalatin, a friend of Luther. As confidential secretary, councilor, librarian, historian, archivist, and relic-buyer for elector Frederick the Wise he had been able to promote the Reformation.


British Parliament prohibits the reading of the New Testament in English by “women or artificer’s prentices, journeymen, servingmen of the degree of yeoman, or under, husbandmen or labourers...”


[Approximate year.] Death of St. Fursey who had founded monasteries in England and Gaul. Many years earlier, Fursey, while seriously ill, had fallen into a trance in which he saw visions of heaven and hell that he recorded. These will probably be among the sources from which Dante will draw inspiration for the descriptions of hell and heaven in his Inferno and Paradiso.

<![CDATA[William C. Burns Bid His Mother Goodbye - January 15]]> https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/15/ https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/today/1/15/ Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT William C. Burns Bid His Mother GoodbyeWilliam C. Burns

On this day, 15 January 1868, a Scotsman in Niú Zhu?ng, China wrote a farewell letter to his mother. William Chalmers Burns had pioneered Christian work in several Chinese cities and would die far from home, but he did so with joy. 

“To my mother. At the end of last year I got a severe chill which has not yet left the system, producing chilliness and fever every night, and for the last two nights this has been followed by perspiration, which rapidly diminishes the strength. Unless it should please God to rebuke the disease, it is evident what the end must soon be, and I write these lines beforehand to say that I am happy, and ready through the abounding grace of God either to live or die. May the God of all consolation comfort you when the tidings of my decease shall reach you, and through the redeeming blood of Jesus may we meet with joy before the throne above!”

Burns’s mother knew of his zeal for Christ. Although as a youth he had rejected the thought of ministry, determining to become a lawyer and make a fortune, a change came over him while he studied at Edinburgh. He walked thirty-six miles home to ask if he might change programs and study for the ministry. When he was seventeen, his mother found him sobbing his heart out in an alley in Glasgow. “Willie my boy, what ails you?” she asked. In broken words he explained that he was weeping for the thousands in the city who did not know Christ as their savior. 

With such a heart for souls, Burns became a leader of the spiritual renewal that swept Scotland in 1839, praying on his knees for hours for the awakening of the church. Wherever he preached in Scotland, good results followed. He visited Canada but was not well received. He was even physically assaulted and in one attack, his face was seriously cut. 

An English mission agency then sent him to China where he lived a life of great simplicity. His years of work sometimes showed promising results, but other times appeared futile. He was especially effective at Baichuan and Fujian. In 1855 he met Hudson Taylor and the two worked together for several months. Burns saw how well the Chinese received Taylor when he wore native dress, and adopted the same style. 

After he became ill, Burns lingered on until April 1868, dying at just fifty-three years of age.

Other Notable Events


Death of Harold Lindsell at Lake Forest, California. A fundamentalist controversialist, he was well-known for his book The Battle for the Bible.


Stanley Tam, internationally successful Christian businessman, gives his business to God and will have legal documents drawn up confirming it.


Death in New Zealand of evangelist Harry Ironside, who had pastored Moody Church, Chicago, for many years and had authored more than sixty Christian works.


Birth of James Edwin Orr in Belfast, Ireland. January 15th will be an important day in his life: on it he will be converted, married, and ordained.


Chukwujindu “Sampson” Anene brings Christianity to his village of Ohita, which still practiced traditional African religion. The first church service is held in the shade of a big tree in the center of the town. He will see most of his generation converted, establish churches, and start schools.


Carl F.W. Walther is ordained in Braunsdorf, Saxony. He will become a leading planter of Lutheran churches and schools in the United States.


Pliny Fisk reaches Smyrna, commencing missionary labors in the Middle East that will take him to Alexandria, Jerusalem, Aleppo, Tripoli, and Beirut. He will distribute four thousand copies of the Bible or parts of Scripture, and twenty thousand tracts.


Isaac Watts is called as pastor to Newington where he will set a high standard of preaching and overcome the resistance of the established church to the introduction of new hymns.


Jeanne D’Albret, Queen of Navarre, publishes a Code of Ecclesiastical Ordinances, making Huguenot forms mandatory in her province.


Six Protestants are executed by fire at Canterbury for their religious views—Kempe, Waterer, Prowting, Lowick, Hudson, and Hay.


Elizabeth Dirks is arrested in the Netherlands. An Anabaptist, she will make a good confession under severe torture before being drowned.


Death of Ita, who had founded a famous monastery of holy virgins, called Cluain-cred-hail, where she practiced severe mortifications and urged everyone to live perpetually recollected in God as the great means of attaining to perfection.


(traditional date) Death of Paul of Thebes at the remarkable age of one hundred and thirteen years. He had been one of the earliest Christian hermits and friend of Antony of the Desert, and inspired many others to adopt the lifestyle.