After the Darkeness, Light

On Sunday, July 13, 2008, Franschhoek, that jewel of a South African Christian heritage, celebrated “Bastille Day”. The town was decked out in red, white, and blue. Waiters and visitors wore the red berets typical of the French Revolution. It was teaming with tourists, enjoying the sun, food, and wine “in honour of its French Huguenot past.” - “Bastille Day,” says the official internet blog, “represents freedom, as it commemorates the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789… In line with the theme of freedom, visitors are encouraged to join in 'The Long Walk', starting at the gates of the Drakenstein Prison (formerly Victor Verster) from which Nelson Mandela was released in 1990.”

The Franschhoek Bastille Festival is a good example of how socialists and communists twist historical events to claim the glory of things which rightfully belong to God. The Huguenot founders had absolutely nothing to do with the French Revolution, for they arrived a whole century before the storming of the Bastille. They did not come to the Cape to celebrate a secular revolution and its reign of terror, but to find shelter after a long period of cruel persecution for their faith.

The Huguenots

The Huguenots, on whom Franschhoek's fame is founded, arrived in 1688. Having embraced the teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin they counted their love of the Lord Jesus Christ higher than anything else in the world. They were devout and virtuous people, highly skilled and hard working, who lived by “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) Their uncompromising faith and obedience to the Word of God had brought them into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church which, between 1562 and 1598, waged eight religious wars against them. The worst outrage against the Huguenots came on August 23, 1572. It was the “Massacre of the Day of St Bartholomew,” during which 10.000 Protestants were murdered in Paris alone, and altogether 100.000 lost their lives in France. The Pope was reportedly so pleased with this victory over the Protestants that he ordered a procession of cardinals through Rome, struck a commemorative medal, and commissioned three frescoes of the slaughter for the Sala Regia of the Vatican.

Two hundred and sixty years after the arrival of some of these martyrs, South Africa honoured them for the singular contribution they were to make to its history. In 1948 a monument was erected, which is unique in all the world, together with a Museum in which the Huguenot history is documented. In colourful pictures this shows how, after the massacre, the Protestant-minded King Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes of 1598, to give peace and protection to the Huguenots. But almost a century later, in 1685, Louis XIV, the 'Sun King,' ended this religious freedom and revoked the Edict. Cruel persecution started all over again. The hard-pressed Huguenots fled their country. Holland alone welcomed 60.000 and, in the years following 1688 sent 200-300 of these Protestants to the Cape of Good Hope. By hard labour and much prayer these French Christians cultivated the virgin ground from Franschhoek and Stellenbosch as far afield as Wellington, Tulbagh, and Piketberg. They had to fight off lions and leopards, but they slowly laid the foundations of sound Christian ministry, mission, and charity, and prepared for the present prosperity of the Winelands.

The Reformation

The Reformation in Europe was mankind's greatest and most noble struggle for spiritual freedom and social liberty. Through the work of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale, John Knox, and many more the Bible became freely available and was respected as the only standard of Truth and Law. In large parts of Europe both Church and Society were thoroughly reformed, and this led to great advancement of learning, discovery, and general freedom. The Reformation's watch words were: Solus Christus (Christ alone is the head of the Church), Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone is our authority), Sola Gratia (Salvation is by the grace of God alone), Sola Fide (Justification is by faith alone), Soli Deo Gloria (Do everything to the glory of God). The Huguenots, as indeed all Protestants, rejected the totalitarianism and corrupt traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.

We, too, live at a time when the Church is widely corrupt. The mighty Anglican Church, for instance, is disintegrating because of its leaders' sanction of homosexuality. The apostate World Council of Churches (WCC) is disgracing its member Churches because of making common cause with heathen religions. An 'Emerging Church' is abolishing doctrine and absolute truth. Even in South Africa, a former archbishop, Desmond Tutu, defends homosexuality and denies Christ by claiming that “God is not a Christian.”“In God's family,” he says, “no one is an outsider black and white, yellow and red, rich and poor… Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, all belong, all are held in a divine embrace that will not let us go…” - Hence, today's world, too, needs a Reformation, for when the household of God is corrupt, all other things are corrupt, too. The Bible says: “It is time for judgment to begin with the family of God;” and it warns, If it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

The Franschhoek Huguenots are role models given by God. Through them the Lord shows us how to be renewed in heart, mind, soul and deed. They teach us how to stand on the Rock, for they firmly held to the word: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) The Huguenot Memorial illustrates the essence of the Christian faith. Three towering arches symbolise the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and above them rise the Sun of Righteousness and the Cross of Golgotha. In front of the arches, on a globe, stands a woman holding in her right hand the Bible and in her left hand a broken chain, looking confidently ahead and “fixing her eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18) The whole Memorial complex bears the motto of the Reformation: “Post Tenebras Lux,” i.e.“After the Darkness Light.”

After the Darkness, Light

Is it not Light, Truth, and Liberty what we need in South Africa today? How can we gain it? - By re-enacting “the long walk to freedom” and celebrating the storming of the Bastille? The Bible warns against false freedom. It points out that there are powers who “promise freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2 Peter 2:19) The freedom which we need, is the liberty of soul which only God can give. It is the freedom to believe and do what is right. For only “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) Only His Truth makes us free. (John 8:32) Jesus promises: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

At present, South Africa's Marxist government is once again talking about changing (abolishing) traditional Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas. The 'Bastille Celebrations' are part of this envisaged change. It is an onslaught on our Christian life and heritage. The dishonouring of the Huguenots, however, is nothing new. Some years ago, attempts were made to rename the Huguenot Tunnel in the Du Toit's Mountains. It was to be dedicated to Dullah Omar, a deceased Muslim Minister of Transport. But the people rightly opposed it, saying that what is dedicated to the Triune God must not be given to Mohammed.

On 10 July, 2009, the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, who was born on 10 July, 1509. This great Reformer and spiritual father of the Huguenots stands out as one of the finest Bible scholars, one of the greatest systematic theologians, and one of the most profound religious thinkers in history. He inspired the thinking of the Reformed Church on every continent and has had an impact on every civilised society. Therefore, when July comes around again, it would be good to abandon the Bastille celebrations and instead honour the Huguenots and their great spiritual father, John Calvin. This would restore to Franschhoek the true meaning of its existence. May God be glorified. “Soli Deo Gloria!”

D. Scarborough
Gospel Defence League
P O Box 587, Sea Point, 8060
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