Saturday, July 30, 2011

Abdon and Sennen of Rome, Martyrs; Robert Barnes, Confessor, Martyr

Today we commemorate Abdon, Sennen, and Robert Barnes. Very little is known about Abdon and Sennen. They were Persians who were martyred under Decius. around the year 250.

Robert Barnes was an English Reformer and martyr. Most of what follows is from Wikipedia. Barnes was educated at Cambridge and a member of the Austin Friars. He received his Doctor of Divinity in 1523, and was made Prior of the Cambridge convent. He was among those who gathered at the White Horse Tavern for theological discussion in the early 1530s. At the Chrsimstas Midnight Mass at St. Edward's Church in 1525, Edwards gave the first sermon of the English Reformation in which he proclaimed the Gospel and accused the church of heresies. In 1526 he was condemned as a heretic for preaching this sermon and was told to either go into exile or be burnt. Barnes decided to go into exile. Barnes chose exileand was committed to the Fleet prison and afterwards to the Austin Friars in London. Barnes escaped to Antwerp in 1528, and also visited Wittenberg, where he made Martin Luther's acquaintance. He also came across Stephen Vaughan, an agent of Thomas Cromwell and an advanced reformer, who recommended him to Cromwell: "Look well," he wrote, "upon Dr Barnes' book. It is such a piece of work as I have not yet seen any like it. I think he shall seal it with his blood" (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII). In 1531 Barnes returned to England, and became one of the chief intermediaries between the English government and Lutheran Germany. In 1535 he was sent to Germany, in the hope of inducing Lutheran divines to approve of Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and four years later he was employed in negotiations connected with Anne of Cleves's marriage. The policy was Cromwell's, but Henry VIII had already in 1538 refused to adopt Lutheran theology, and the statute of Six Articles (1539), followed by the king's disgust with Anne of Cleves (1540), brought the agents of that policy to ruin. An attack upon Bishop Gardiner by Barnes in a sermon at St Paul's Cross was the signal for a bitter struggle between the Protestant and reactionary parties in Henry's council, which raged during the spring of 1540. Barnes was forced to apologise and recant; and Gardiner delivered a series of sermons at St Paul's Cross to counteract Barnes' invective. But a month or so later Cromwell was made earl of Essex, Gardiner's friend, Bishop Sampson, was sent to the Tower, and Barnes reverted to Lutheranism. It was a delusive victory. In July, Cromwell was attainted, Anne of Cleves was divorced and Barnes was burnt (30 July 1540). Barnes was one of six executed on the same day: two, William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard, were, like himself, burnt for heresy under the Six Articles; three, Thomas Abel, Richard Fetherstone and Edward Powell, were hanged for treason in denying the royal supremacy. Both Lutherans and Catholics on the continent were shocked. Luther published Barnes' confession with a preface of his own as Bekenntnis des Glaubens (1540). Some historians have concluded that Barnes was crucial in having the English Protestants and Catholics alike understand the Reformation around them.

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