Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

June 23, 2011

Noblesse Oblige

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

The progenitor of my wife’s family in America is Claude Phillipe de Richebourg.  He was born of nobility in France in the 1600s.  He exemplifies the spirit of the immigrants who came to America seeking religious freedom.

He was a minister in the French Huguenot church.  The Catholic monarchy did not allow individual thought on religious matters and they began to persecute the Huguenots — who were Protestant.  The persecution escalated until in a period of three weeks, 50,000 Huguenots were slain.  Non-Catholic churches were destroyed.

As Huguenots began to flee France, those who were caught were sent to the galleys or to prison.  Yet, many were able to escape to other countries.  Claude Phillipe de Richebourg and his wife were among those who were able to flee to England.   However, as he left France he openly denounced his loyalty to the king.  He stated his reason.  “I have to live and serve God according to the dictates of my heart.”  God had called him into ministry and he felt keenly that he must interpret the Bible to every man.

He and his wife arrived in Virginia in October, 1700.  Soon they migrated to North Carolina and on to South Carolina.  In South Carolina he established a French Huguenot church at Jamestown on the Santee River.  Even with Indian uprisings and many dangers, he kept faithful to his post at the church.

Next to Charleston, the settlement at Jamestown was the largest of the Huguenots.  Pressure came from the Church of England through the English authorities who governed this territory.  The Anglican church insisted that all religious services — regardless of heritage or language — must be held in English.  Richebourg persisted in preaching in French.  He felt a strong obligation to provide spiritual training, encouragement, and worship in the language of the people in this large Huguenot settlement.  This had been the reason for leaving France.  He felt obligated to minister to the French speaking people in their native language.

His continuation of ministry in the language of the people angered the Anglican church.  He was threatened to be removed from the church unless he desisted.  This pastor was told to forsake the way of the Huguenots and adopt the polity, theology, and practice of the Anglican church.  He seemingly acknowledged a willingness, but he was committed to his convictions and he continued his services in French.

When patience was exhausted by the governing authorities, soldiers were sent to stand at the church door with crossed swords to prevent anyone from entering.  Claude Phillipe de Richebourg stood his ground with his conviction and commitment.  He was determined to have a ministry for the people.  He is a testimony to noblesse oblige.

Noblesse oblige is originally a French term that means those of nobility or responsibility have an obligation to do what is expected.  Today, more figuratively, the term refers to the fact that one must act in a way that conforms to one’s position and with the reputation that one has earned.  This French pastor was committed to maintain his reputation of providing spiritually for people in their own language.  As a pastor, he felt that he had a obligation because of the call of God upon his life.

We will not find the term noblesse oblige in the Bible — but it is a teaching of Christ.  Scripture is packed with references of “being consistent in living if we claim to be a Christian.”  Believers have a obligation to be what they say they are.  We cannot risk backing down in difficult situations.  We must not be intimidated.  We must walk the walk!  At whatever price!

“Whoever has my commandments and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21)



1 Comment »

  1. This is very interesting geneology and goes along with your wonderful sermon today on conforming. Thank you for both.

    We all have many things in our past family traditions that we could conform to, but in Jesus Christ we must think of the thermostat and make changes to conform to the teachings of Christ Jesus!

    Comment by Doris — June 26, 2011 @ 11:30 am | Reply

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