Today in Christian History

February 15

February 15, 1386: Jagiello, king of the Lithuanians, is baptized. His conversion, the condition of an alliance with Poland, marks the end of established paganism in Europe.

February 15, 1631: John Donne, the greatest love poet of the English language and dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, preaches his last sermon titled "Death's Duel." "We celebrate our own funeral with cries, even at our birth," preached the poet, who was seemingly obsessed with the subject for his entire life (32 of his 54 songs and sonnets are about death).

February 15, 1860: Wheaton College (formerly Illinois Institute), one of evangelicalism's top institutions of higher education, is chartered in Illinois.

February 15, 1905: Christian author Lew Wallace dies at age 77. Wallace famous Ben Hur (1880) conceived on a train ride while arguing about Christ's divinity with famous agnostic Robert Ingersoll. It sold more than 300,000 copies in a decade, making him one of the best-selling religious authors of the 1800s.

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February 23, 155 (traditional date): Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, is martyred. Reportedly a disciple of the Apostle John, at age 86 he was taken to be burned at the stake. "You try to frighten me with fire that burns for an hour and forget the fire of hell that never burns out," he said. The flames, legend says, would not touch him, and when he was run through with a sword, his blood put the fire out (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).

February 23, 303: Diocletian begins ...

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