Today the Church commemorates Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr. Barnes was a sixteenth-century Protestant born in 1495 in England. Our devotional reading comes from The Protestant Reformation: 1517–1559.
The fiery-tempered prior Robert Barnes provided another personal link with Wittenberg. On Christmas Eve 1525, he delivered an impassioned sermon in which he leveled twenty-five criticisms at the church and made heretical statements.
Wolsey had his Cambridge rooms searched for Lutheran books, which Barnes foresightedly had hidden elsewhere. On the advice of Bishops Gardiner and Foxe, Barnes abjured his preaching “against the worldliness of the church” and did penance by kneeling during Bishop John Fisher’s sermon at St. Paul’s Cathedral on February 11, 1526.
In addition, Barnes was forced to carry a fagot in procession around the church. Under house arrest in 1528, he dressed in lay clothes and fled via Antwerp to Wittenberg. There he became a guest and close friend of Luther.
In 1531 the Wittenberg theologians sent him as their representative to Henry VIII, but Chancellor Thomas More attempted to have him arrested as a heretic and apostate monk. Barnes escaped by disguising himself as a merchant.
During the last conservative years of Henry’s reign, his luck ran out and, condemned to death for opposing Bishop Gardiner and the king, Barnes was burned at Smithfield on July 30, 1540.
In his final confession, he declared: “I trust in no good works that ever I did, but only in the death of Christ. I do not doubt but through him to inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Thus did “St. Robert” die, as Luther affectionately called him.
Devotional reading is adapted from The Protestant Reformation: 1517–1559 by Lewis W. Spitz, page 230, © 2001 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. (1068)
Prayer is from the Treasury of Daily Prayer, page 575, © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.