Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The Burning Bush and the Presbyterian Holocaust

From John Ross
The Burning Bush holds a special place in the hearts of Scottish Presbyterians. In May 1691, the Assembly papers printed by a George Mossman included for the first time a symbol of the Burning Bush, surrounded by a Latin motto. Why the burning bush? 
1691 was no ordinary year. For years before, both Charles II and James II tried to dictate their people’s religion. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland was repressed and persecuted. Services were held in remote corners of hills and glens. And as the ministers preached and prayed, armed guards kept watch. 
During those Killing Times, there had been a holocaust of Presbyterian ministers and Christians. They were driven out of their churches. Hundreds had been killed, many more imprisoned and some sold as slaves in America. And all for no greater crime that obeying their conscience and, against the law, attending services held by Presbyterian ministers. 
In 1690 all this changed. William III became king, James II was defeated, and Presbyterianism restored to Scotland. For Mossman the burning bush was a parable of Presbyterian survival. The church had seemed to go up in flames, but it had not been consumed. The motto Mossman chose was Exodus 3.2 from the Latin text of a Bible version by a Jewish Christian called Immanuel Tremellius. Tremellius translated Exodus 3.2, "Yet it was not consumed" as: "Nec Tamen Consumebatur". Ever since Mossman's unofficial decoration it has been the Scottish Presbyterian motto.
Picture: Illustration from H.E. Marshall's 'Scotland's Story', 1906.

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