Yesterday was a very special day during which Pastor Fran Leero preached his final message before New Testament Baptist Church. It was a special time of commemoration and appreciation for the 20-plus years of service that he has humbly performed for his Lord. I find the timing of this event amazing as I consider the historical events that transpired on this day, August 17, in the year 1662. That Lord’s Day marked the day on which over 2000 non-conformist ministers in England preached their final sermon. John MacArthur recounts:
“One of the most tragic days in the history of England was August 17, 1662. A tragic day because it was the last day for certain pastors to be able to preach to their congregations before they were exiled. Some of them lost their lives, some of them were exiled out of England to other countries. What precipitated this was something called the Act of Conformity. Through the years there had been developing in England a group of preachers and a group of churches that were called Non-conformists because they did not subscribe to all of the ritual and ceremony of the Church of England, nor did they confine their worship to the Book of Common Prayer. They were more concerned about Biblical Christianity; they were more concerned about teaching proper doctrine; they were more concerned about worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth and so they were known as Non-conformists. Many of you would know them as Puritans.
They did not conform to the strictures of the Church of England, which of course had neglected the Word of God and the gospel for the most part, and so a law was passed making them illegal. Twenty-five hundred of their ministers were exiled–forbidden to preach. Three-thousand non-conformists were killed and 60,000 families were disrupted. It all came to focus on August 17, 1662 because that was the last Sunday when these Non-conformist preachers could preach in their churches. For the last two weeks I have been reading a book called “Farewell Sermons.” It is a compilation of 24 of the sermons preached on that day. Sermons from a pastor who would never see his people again: some of them died in exile; some of them later came back. But this was the end of their ministry and this terrible, terrible thing was being done, this terrible act of persecution and they were being dispossessed. The churches were losing them as their pastors; there was going to be none to replace them and they were being shipped off to exile.”
Though the events that brought about the Great Ejection, and the departure of Pastor Leero were infinitely different, the impact on the congregations were likely much the same. The office of pastor is a sacred position and the men who faithfully serve in it (as Pastor Leero has, and undoubtedly will continue to) are worthy of honor. I am thankful for the godly men that God has sovereignly ordained to shepherd me and each member of His flock through the past 2000 years. Truly, a faithful expositor of God’s Word who tenderly and compassionately tends to the congregation is a manifestation of the grace of God. How thankful we should be for doctrinally sound, faithful, loving, wise guides that are willing to contend for the faith and that bring glory to God!