Rt. Rev. Dr. David Samuel speaks on the testimony of Cranmer at the martyrdom site, Broad Street, Oxford
450 Years ago, on 21st March 1556 Archbishop Cranmer was burned at the stake for his Protestant faith. He was intimidated into recanting his Protestant views in order to save his life. But he was sentenced to death by burning anyway.
A show trial was held at St Mary's Church Oxford, where Cranmer was expected to confirm that he had rejected his former Protestant convictions. But, the old Archbishop shocked everyone by repudiating his retraction and reaffirming his Protestant teaching. John Foxes' Book of Martyrs takes up the story.
"And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be; and that is, all such bills or papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire it shall first be burned".
Foxe describes the brave martyrdom of the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury,
With thoughts intent upon a far higher object than the empty threats of man, he reached the spot dyed with the blood of Ridley and Latimer. There he knelt for a short time in earnest devotion, and then arose, that he might undress and prepare for the fire. Two friars who had been parties in prevailing upon him to abjure, now endeavored to draw him off again from the truth, but he was steadfast and immovable in what he had just professed, and publicly taught. A chain was provided to bind him to the stake, and after it had tightly encircled him, fire was put to the fuel, and the flames began soon to ascend.
Then were the glorious sentiments of the martyr made manifest; then it was, that stretching out his right hand, he held it unshrinkingly in the fire until it was burnt to a cinder, even before his body wa sinjured, frequently exclaiming, "This unworthy right hand."
His body did abide the burning with such steadfastness that he seemed to have no more than the stake to which he was bound; his eyes were lifted up to heaven, and he repeated "this unworthy right hand," as long as his voice would suffer him; and using often the words of Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," in the greatness of the flame, he gave up the ghost.
Last Saturday afternoon over 100 people gathered in a chilly Oxford to remember the burning of Cranmer. The meetings, which culminated with gospel preaching at the Oxford Martyr's Memorial were organised by the Protestant Truth Society .
450 Years on, let us remember that we have a gospel worth living for and a hope worth dying for in the Lord Jesus Christ. May we not forget those who are persecuted because of righteousness, in our own day.
Visit the Barnabas Fund Website . Consider what you can do to give hope and aid to the persecuted church.
And they overcame...by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelation 12:11)