When the Pilgrims came to America, their journey was just as much about escaping a brutal Old World as creating a New World. Because Protestants not willing to go along with the established religious order of their home country faced persecution right from the first Protestant on.
There really wasn’t that much criticism or disunity in Christianity until Martin Luther kicked off the Protestant Reformation, by literally nailing to the wall the radical doctrine that salvation comes not from priests, but by faith alone.
How Islam Brought Feuding Christians Together
His action shook the world so much, though, it led to bloody religious wars and persecutions between the traditional Catholic faith and the burgeoning Protestant denominations.
It actually took the threat of Islam to bring the feuding Christians together with a treaty known as the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. But the document contained some costly fine print.
“It has a little Latin phrase in the treaty: ‘curios regio eius religio,’ which means ‘whose is the reign his is the religion,'” William Federer, author of The Treacherous World of the 16th Century, told CBN News.
That phrase gave monarchs the right to impose their own religion on entire kingdoms.
“You had to believe the way your king did,” Federer said. “If you did not, you were persecuted or you fled.”
“The kings believed that they had a divine right from God to rule over their subjects. The subjects had nothing to say about it,” stated Dr. Eddie Hyatt, author of Pilgrims and Patriots.
And monarchs took a ruthless approach in stomping out religious dissent.
“The period of time in which they lived was brutal, brutal, brutal, ” said David Barton of Wallbuilders. He discussed what it would have been like to be a believer back then.
“If you are a Christian, a professing Christian, but don’t have the right doctrine, they will impale you, they will slit you,” he said.
Federer added, “You were burned at the stake. You had your face branded as a heretic.”
Burned for the Bible
Dr. Jerry Newcombe, author of American Amnesia, explained how in that cruel era even the Bible could endanger your life.
“It was disallowed to read the Bible in those days for yourself,” he stated.
Barton said the rulers in those times would warn, “If you just try to put the Bible where other people can read it, we’ll burn you at the stake.”
Hyatt said, “If you were involved in baptizing an adult, you could be put to death.”
Barton recounted how one English monarch dealt with Christians opposing his religion and how it operated.
He explained, “The king said ‘I’m tired of you guys criticizing me.’ So to 10,000 of them, he chopped off their ears, slit their nose, sliced their tongue, and said ‘let’s hear you say something now.'”
‘You’re All Criminals’
All believers were expected to attend services in the state church.
Barton stated, “And every Sunday that they didn’t go to church, they were fined.”
If instead, believers tried having prayer or worship services or Bible studies on their own, they could lose their freedom.
“Their meetings were raided and broken up,” Hyatt said.
Federer stated the authorities might tell you, “‘You’re all criminals.’ They’ll bust into the home and arrest everyone.”
‘Religion can be Mean’
As for England’s lawmakers, Barton explained how they could be just as controlling as their monarch.
“Parliament is passing laws saying who can and cannot take Communion,” he said. “Parliament is passing laws saying who can and cannot be a preacher of the Gospel.”
Hyatt summed it up: “Religion can be mean without Christ.”
He suggested, though, that even in the midst of so much death and persecution, religious dissidents could find godly grace, like Anabaptist leader Michael Sadler found after he was condemned to death.
“Before taking him out to burn him at the stake, they cut off his tongue, and then they took hot pincers and pulled flesh from his body,” Hyatt began.
‘This Suffering is Bearable’
But he explained how Sadler had agreed to give a sign if the torture he was experiencing was something he or other Christians could bear up under.
Hyatt said as the flames rose around Sadler, “He lifted his hand and made a sign: ‘yes, this suffering is bearable.’ In other words, God’s grace was sufficient.”
And these Christian historians told CBN News how even as all these ungodly activities went on, they can trace the hand of God using whatever it took to propel the Christian nations forward and westward.
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SOURCE: CBN, by Paul Strand