Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Reasons to remember the 5th of November

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

If all four lines of this verse are not familiar to everyone, the first line most certainly is. Who has not heard of the phrase 'Remember, remember the fifth of November'. Yet the reasons why the events of that date ought to be remembered are almost forgotten. We know a little of the events; that on this date a plot to blow up Parliament was foiled with Guy Fawkes being discovered underneath Parliament surrounded by gunpowder. Whilst the event is commemorated across Britain with the burning of a 'Guy' little thought is given to why we should remember 'the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot'. It is our desire to simply highlight three reasons why we ought to remember this event, that we might know better how God delivered the nation on that occasion.

1. Mass murder was prevented
So cheap has life become today that we barely consider this a reason to give thanks unto God. The gunpowder plot was not simply a plot to blow up an empty building, it was an attempt to assassinate the King and the whole of the English Parliament. In 1605 Parliament's State Opening was scheduled for 5th November. The date chosen to blow up parliament was therefore the most significant day in the political calender, the one day when it was assured that the building would be packed to the rafters. The 36 barrels of gunpowder which were discovered along with Guy Fawkes were easily enough to reduce the House of Lords, where the people would be gathered, to rubble. The House of Lords at that time was not the chamber which we recognise, but was one of medieval origin, and it is sure that most, if not all, of those inside would have been killed in the explosion. Only by the grace of God was such a travesty averted, and it is to God that we must give thanks for this occasion of delivering our nation.

2. The cause of Popery was hindered
What was the rationale behind the gunpowder plot? It was not merely political motivation that drove the plotters in their attempt to carry out this terrible deed, but it was religious zeal. Guy Fawkes and those who conspired with him were devout Roman Catholics. King James had not been as favourable to the Roman Catholic position in England as they would have liked, and their plan was to assassinate the king and establish a Roman Catholic regime during the rebellion that followed. The desire of the conspirators to re-establish the cause of Popery in England cannot be doubted; Guy Fawkes himself had fought in the Netherlands during the 1590s on the side of the Spanish Catholic cause, and others of his co-conspirators had a similar record. When we look at the history of England it is clear that when Popery has prevailed, the cause of the gospel, and of civil and religious liberty has been greatly restricted. We ought to give thanks to God that on this occasion in the history of our land we were delivered from such darkness.

3. The publication of the King James Bible
Something seldom considered about the gunpowder plot is that the King James whom the plotters tried to kill, is the same King James of the Authorised Version of the scriptures. It was in 1604, one year prior to the gunpowder plot, that he convened the Hampton Court Conference. This was to result in 1611 in a translation of the bible into English, which is still unparallelled to this day. Who can say if this would still have happened if the gunpowder plot had been successful. Had the conspirators had their way and re-established a Roman Catholic monarchy it is surely very unlikely that the translation would have been completed. The English speaking world would have been much the poorer without such a fine translation of the Word of God. One again we must give thanks unto the Lord for what he has given us, and from what he hast delivered us.

As we remember the fifth of November, let us pray in the words of the Psalmist 'O give thanks unto the God of heaven, for his mercy endureth for ever'

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