Three men made the difficult choice to follow their beliefs despite deadly consequences to their own flesh.
Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer made what some would say was a fatal choice to hold to their faith in converting to the teachings of the Great Reformation which had sprung up in Europe.
The reign of Mary I was a dangerous time to preach against the then-corrupt Catholic church. In all, Bloody Mary’s reign of terror claimed the lives of more than 300 Protestants. It ended with her death in 1558.
Latimer quoted to Ridley as they burned: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.”
There is a powerful side story which made a huge impression on our family as we visited this site.
The third man, Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, should have been burned on the stake with Ridley and Latimer, but….
Thomas Cranmer (the exalted Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England) was imprisoned in the Tower of London, tried for heresy, and condemned to death with Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer.
[Here are portions of the story from The One Year Book Of Christian History, by Michael Rusten, October 16, pg. 580-581.]
“After much pressure Cranmer finally signed a recantation denouncing Luther as a heretic and affirming the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. But Queen Mary I and the Catholic bishops had no intention of sparing Cranmer. They knew that the Reformation seemed to grow stronger with each martyrdom, so their plan was to show the folly of the movement through the collapse of a major leader. They planned to have Cranmer make a public statement of his conversion to Catholicism to show his weakness and then execute him!!!“
A whole year went by.
“But Cranmer had the last word. On that appointed day Cranmer was brought to the platform to speak to the assembled crowd. He confirmed his faith in God and the Bible. Then to the horror of the church dignitaries, he said, “As for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine!” Amid an uproar, Cranmer was pulled off the platform, but he broke away and ran straight to the stake and stood resolutely to be burned.
“The flames soon consumed Thomas Cranmer, but his brave denunciation forever destroyed the power of Roman Catholicism in England making it a Protestant nation. The deaths of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer indeed lit a candle that has never been put out!“
He never gives us more than we can bear, but that He carries us through it.
When I remember such history, it makes me want to live more and more simply. It makes me want to have little to hold me here. It makes me want to be utterly enthralled with Jesus so that “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. Can you say with these Christians: “the steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (Psalm 63:3)? Better than life! To live in the love of God is better than life with husband and children.
Jesus called Himself ‘the Way’ (John 14: 6) and’ the Door’ (John 10: 7). May we all choose the Door that leads to life eternal whether we face persecution or not.
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” ~Revelation 3: 8
“When one door closes, another one opens, but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” ~Alexander Graham Bell