Black Bartholomew’s Day 2: Ejection

St Bartholomew’s Day is also remembered for the Great Ejection. Far less bloody and uncivilised than the French massacres, this was the deadline by which puritan clergy in 1662 had to start using the Anglican Prayer Book, limit their preaching, abandon extemporaneous prayer and swear oaths of loyalty to church government by bishops. Many had fought a civil war to cleanse the English Church of superstition and would sooner lose a year’s pay, their homes and jobs than abandon their deeply held principles. Over a fifth of clergymen were ejected, around 2000 (700 of these were ejected in September 1660; the number also includes university tutors). This number included John Wesley’s two grandfathers and Richard Baxter, minister at Kidderminster. Having been forced to leave his church, he was replaced by his predecessor, Mr Dance, who was a drunkard and preached but once every three months. Many of these great men then preached in woods and barns, under cover of darkness, hoping soldiers and magistrates wouldn’t discover them and have them carted off to gaol.

Like Dance, many of the men who replaced these godly parsons were second-rate nonentities, more interested in comfortable livings than saving souls. As JC Ryle, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool wrote 200 years later: ”A more impolitic and disgraceful deed never disfigured the annals of a Protestant church’’.  It did “an injury to the cause of true religion in England, which will probably never be repaired”.

They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

Hebrews 11