When the British monarchy was reinstated in 1660, a series of new laws stifled religious liberty. The Act of Uniformity, for example, required all ministers to use The Book of Common Prayer as a format for worship. Many non-Anglicans refused, and in August, 1662, over 2,000 of England’s finest ministers were ejected from their pulpits. Among them, Thomas Watson of Cambridge, who preached his “Farewell Sermon” on August 17, 1662:
I have exercised my ministry among you for sixteen years and have received many demonstrations of love from you. I have observed your reverent attentions to the word preached. I have observed your zeal against error; and as much as could be expected in a critical time, your unity. Though I should not be permitted to preach to you, yet shall I not cease to love and pray for you; but why should there be any interruption made? Where is the crime? Some say that we are disloyal and seditious. Beloved, what my actions and sufferings for his majesty have been is known. I desire to be guided by the silver thread of God’s word and of God’s providence. And if I must die, let me leave some legacy with you before I go from you, some counsel.
First, keep your constant hours every day with God. Begin the day with God, visit God in the morning before you make any other visit; wind up your hearts towards heaven in the morning and they will go the better all the day after! Oh turn your closets into temples; read the scriptures. The two Testaments are the two lips by which God speaks to us; this will make you wise unto salvation. Besiege heaven every day with your prayer, thus perfume your houses.
Watson proceeded to give his listeners 19 more “directions” then he ended, saying: I have many things yet to say to you, but I know not whether God will give me another opportunity. My strength is almost gone. Consider what hath been said, and the Lord will give you understanding in all things.
2,500 pastors stepped down this day rather than betray their faith, which is known as the Great Ejection.
Enemies spend the whole day finding fault with me;
All they think about is how to do me harm.
They attack from ambush,
Watching my every step and hoping to kill me.
You have kept record of my days of wandering.
You have stored my tears in your bottle
And counted each of them. (Psalm 56:5,6,8)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). August 17.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1768 – John Witherspoon is inaugurated as president of the College of New Jersey, which became known as Princeton.
1878 – Richard Upjohn, an architect who had designed many Christian churches in the United States, applied revived English Gothic architectural style, passed away. Because of his unwavering faith, he refused a commission to design a Unitarian church building, believing Unitarians anti-Christian.