More than a Hostage

In its effort to control Ghana (the Gold Coast), the British took “hostages” from leading families. Prince Owusu-Ansa of the Asante was one. His captivity, such as it was, was part of a peace treaty and was neither cruel nor onerous and it resulted in the expansion of the kingdom of Christ. Owusu-Ansa converted to Christianity while in this arrangement. Afterward, he became a leading Methodist evangelist in his homeland, responsible for the conversion of thousands. His work began in the 1840s with increasing responsibilities until December, 1862, when he resigned from the mission because of its overt racism.

Don’t badmouth the Inquisition

Antonius Palearius dared to badmouth the Inquisition and paid the price. He was a professor of Greek and Latin associated at one time or another with Siena, Perugia, and Milan. Because he denounced the Inquisition as a dagger pointed at the throats of literary men, Pope Pius V ordered his arrest. He was brought to Rome where he was tried and hanged. One of the charges was that he abhorred the cross. The inquisitors based this absurdity on the fact that he preferred to sign his name Aonius. They claimed he dropped the t in his name because it looked like a cross. (Details from Ditchfield and Wikipedia)

Cruel Literary Criticism in 17th-C England

England’s Star Chamber punished Dr. Alexander Leighton in 1630. Leighton had attacked the episcopal system of the Church of England in Syon’s Plea against Prelacy (1628). The Star Chamber was a secretive court controlled by King Charles I. A Scottish minister, Leighton was committed to Fleet Prison for life and required to pay a fine of £10,000 to the king. He was also degraded from the ministry and brought to the pillory at Westminster.

The court ordered him “whipped, and after the whipping to have one of his ears cut, one side of his nose slit, and be branded in the face with the letters S.S., signifying Sower of Sedition.” After a few days he was to be taken to the pillory at Cheapside on a market-day, “and be there likewise whipped, and have the other ear cut off, and the other side of his nose slit, and then to be shut up in prison for the remainder of his life, unless his Majesty be graciously pleased to enlarge [free] him.”

Such sentences were intended to deter authors from criticizing the government. America’s founders included freedom of speech in the Bill of Rights to prevent such abuses. As Ditchfield says, “Maiming an author, cutting off his hands, or ears, or nose, seems to have been a favorite method of criticism in the sixteenth century.”

After Prison, Andrew Bryan Built a Church

Andrew Bryan, a slave in Savannah, Georgia, became a Christian while listening to another slave preach. Soon Bryan himself began to preach. Afraid that slaves who listened to black preachers would rise up in rebellion, plantation owners whipped and imprisoned Andrew Bryan. Afterward, he held up his hand and declared that he “would freely suffer death for the cause of Christ.”
Bryan’s slaveholder was upset at what had been done to Bryan and gave him the use of a barn for church services. Eventually Bryan bought his freedom, gathered a congregation of seven hundred, and built the First Baptist Church of Savannah.

Henry Oldenburg’s (c.1618–1677) false imprisonment

Henry Oldenburg, unpaid secretary of the Royal Society, spent the summer months of 1667 in the tower of London. As secretary, he maintained a voluminous correspondence. He had apparently complained to a foreign correspondent that the English navy had failed to prepare as it should. When the navy suffered humiliation, the government looked for individuals it could blame and fingered Oldenburg among others for treasonous correspondence. Although Oldenburg was not imprisoned for his faith, he was a man of faith and piety—the person who more than any other made the reputation of the young Royal Society, managing most of its scientific correspondence with such candor and tact that strangers were willing to trust their work to him.

Jean Le Noir, too outspoken?

It is hard to know whether to hail or to hiss some captives of faith. Such a one was Jean Le Noir (1622–1692). A canonist (specialist in church law) at Seez, France, he accused his superiors of heresy in writings and in sermons. As they were orthodox Catholics, his attacks went nowhere. He himself was attracted to Jansenism, a Catholic reform movement that, like Calvinism, looked back to Augustine’s ideas of predestination and limited free will, but was censured and outlawed by various popes. He forbade the folk of one town to venerate the Virgin, and unloaded on his bishop for allowing jugglers at a Christmas celebration. Eventually his writings and accusations led to legal restrictions. When he failed to abide by these, he was sentenced to the galleys. He issued a moving appeal and his sentence was reduced to imprisonment. He served time in three prisons, dying in captivity in Nantes.

Robert Barclay imprisoned for Quaker views

Robert Barclay was one of the sventeenth century’s greatest Quaker theologians and willing to suffer for the faith. He held that the only real Christianity is that in which the Spirit of Christ is present and he rejected any faith that rested on history, liturgy, or doctrinal statements without inner life. He went to prison at least twice for his teachings. In January 1677 he wrote a treatise on universal love while in Abderdeen prison where he was kept. He was held for about five months that time in conditions that were sometimes crowded with little air and less light. In 1679 he was committed to prison again, but held for only a few hours.

As might be expected, he opposed persecution and argued that state authorities have no right to punish people for their conscientious views considering that only God has power over conscience.

Moravians jailed for helping slaves

Slave owners on St. Thomas (in the Virgin Islands) were suspicious of Moravians who settled as missionaries. Because the Moravians preached to congregations of hundreds of slaves and taught their own slaves to read and write, they feared the missionaries would stir rebellion. Consequently they sought to shut down their work. When Frederic Martin married a couple without first having his ordination countersigned by island authorities, those authorities warned the missionaries they were under close observation. The team was falsely implicated in a robbery. The Moravians would not testify under oath and that became the governor’s pretext to jail them.

Governor Moth threw Friedrich Martin and his co-workers Matthäus Freundlich and his wife Rebecca Shelly Freundlich (a former slave) into prison. Moth released Martin after four weeks because Martin became desperately ill. However he held the other two for over fifteen weeks. By then they were almost dead with starvation and were saved only because Count von Zinzendorf, head of the Moravians, visited the island, learned of their situation, and demanded their release.