Church History Lesson 5

(The link to the Burk Parson talk at Ligonier is in the sidebar under Church History)


The Puritans Desire to Reform the Church of England

The Puritans wished to see in­stalled in every parish an earnest and spiritually minded pastor able to preach. They demanded the abolition of the clerical dress then in vogue; of kneeling at the Lord’s Supper; of the ring ceremony at weddings; and of the use of the sign of the cross at baptism.

In the clerical dress then in use they saw the claim of the clergy to powers which reminded them of the power of Catholic priests. In kneeling at the Lord’s Supper they saw adoration of the physical pres­ence of Christ as taught in the Catholic doctrine of transubstan­tiation.

Before long they went even further in their demands for the purification of the Church. They wished to see in each parish, elders chosen to exercise discipline. They wished to have the ministers chosen by the people, and the office of bishop abolished. All ministers, they believed, should be on an equal footing. This amounted to a de­mand for the presbyterian form of church government in place of the Episcopalian.

Although the Puritans objected strongly to the episcopal form of church government and to many of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, they were strongly opposed to separation from that Church. They wished to stay in that Church and to reform it from within, molding it after the pattern of Calvin’s church in Geneva.

The Separatists or Congrega­tionalists Leave the Church of England

The Separatists were also Puri­tans, but they were radical. They saw that the process of reforming the Episcopal Church of England from within would at best be long and tedious, if not entirely hopeless. They therefore separated themselves from the Church of England and became known as Separatists or Dissenters. In the matter of church government they believed not only that each local church or congregation is a com­plete church in itself; but also that no church should have anything to say about any other church. Be­cause they believed that all local churches should be independent of each other, they were called Con­gregationalists or Independents. All Puritans, both those who re­mained in the Church of England and those who separated from it, were Calvinists in doctrine.


A New English Bible Is Ob­tained through Puritan Effort

In 1603 James I succeeded Eliza­beth upon the throne of England. At once the Puritans addressed to the new king a petition in which they set forth some very moderate requests. A conference between bishops and Puritans was held in the presence of the king. No changes in the affairs of the Church desired by the Puritans were granted. But one thing of very great importance was granted — a new translation of the Bible. The result was the King James Bible, published in 1611. This Bible is the translation which has until recent times been in universal use among all English-speaking people. Continue reading “Church History Lesson 5”

Church History Lesson 4



The seeds of change had already been sown by others. Politically, the power of the papacy was being challenged. In Portugal, Spain, France, and England, national states were seeking to rise. Emperors felt the restrictions of religion on their decisions, and they wanted more freedom from the Church. Elsewhere, the followers of Mohammed continued to move against the borders of the Holy Roman Empire. After conquering Constantinople and the Eastern Empire in 1453, Islamic armies marched across Eastern Europe until they arrived at the gates of Vienna in 1529. The world was rapidly changing. Religion was not exempted. When Constantinople was conquered by the Mohammedan Turks, the central power of the Eastern Orthodox Church was lost, and national churches soon emerged. Other important things were happening. Christopher (literal meaning: Christ-like) Columbus made his valiant voyage which led to the discovery of the New World.

Also during this period, advances were being made in knowledge. The scientific legacy of the Middle Ages includes the Hindu numerals, the decimal system, the discovery of gunpowder, and the inventions of the eyeglass, the mariner’s compass, and the pendulum clock. The invention of moveable type at Mayence on the Rhine, in 1456 by Johann

Gutenberg, ensured that learning would be widely encouraged and new ideas would be spread. It is significant that the first book printed by Gutenberg was 200 copies of Jerome’s Vulgate Bible. Later, the printing press would be used to bring the Scriptures to the common person in a clear translation that all could read. Once people were able to read the Bible for themselves, many would realize that the Catholic Church had become far removed from the ideals of the New Testament.

According to the Church in medieval times, entrance into heaven was based upon merit. In order to merit eternal life in the presence of God, there first had to be a cleansing by fire after death in a place called purgatory. In addition, there had to be evidence of having lived a worthy life. In order to help professing Christians live a worthy life of merit, which would reduce time spent in purgatory, the Church developed a system of sacraments.  Continue reading “Church History Lesson 4”

Church History Lesson 3


The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.



With the passing of time, many of the Arabs had forsaken the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to embrace many gods. In this idolatrous country of Arabia, there was born in the city of Mecca a boy named Mahomet, who came to be known as Mohammed.

At the age of 25, Mohammed was employed by Kajijah, a rich widow. He carried on her husband’s business and prospered. He also married Kajijah, who was fourteen years older than himself. Continue reading “Church History Lesson 3”

Church History Lesson 2


At the onset of the 4th century, Constantine the Great (or Constantine I) ascended the throne. He recognized that the state could use Christianity as an ally. It was under him that the church and state came to terms. He is said to have seen a cross in the sky with the words “in this sign conquer” in Latin, just before he defeated his enemies in the battle over the Tiber river.

On the evening before the battle, so the story goes, Constantine saw a cross above the sun as it was setting in the west. In letters of light the cross bore the words: Hoc Signo Vinces, which means, “In this sign, conquer.”

The next day, October 28 in the year 312, the battle was joined. It was a furious battle. The Prae­torian Guards fought like lions. They never gave ground, but their ranks were cut down where they stood. The army of Maxentius was completely defeated. Maxentius himself, attempting to escape over the Milvian Bridge across the Tiber River, was drowned.

The Edict of Milan Grants Equality

The battle of the Milvian Bridge was one of the great decisive bat­tles in the history of the world. It made Constantine master of the entire western part of the Roman Empire. But it had another and far more important result. Con­stantine felt that he had won the battle because he had received help from the God of the Christians, and he became a Christian. He who had been a worshipper of the sun-god Mithra now embraced the religion of Him who is the true light of the world.

The Edict of Milan put a stop to the persecutions, and proclaimed absolute freedom of conscience. It placed Christianity upon a footing of equality, before the law, with the other religions in the Empire. They declared that both the Eastern and Western Roman Empires would keep a neutral position on all faiths. Constantine the Great even commissioned the construction of several grand cathedrals. For the first time in ancient Rome, Christians could openly practice their religion without fear.

The World Invades the Church

The Edict of Milan proved to have a very definite disadvantage. It was now no longer a shame, but an honor to be a Christian. The Christian name now secured many and great material advantages. The Christian name had become a passport to political, military, and social promotion. As a result, thou­sands upon thousands of heathen joined the Church.

Unfortunately many of these were Christians in name only. The Christianity of Emperor Constan­tine himself was, if not of a doubt­ful, at least not of a very high character. What the Church gained in quantity it lost in quality.

Continue reading “Church History Lesson 2”