THE MARTYRDOM OF THOMAS CRANMER
One of God’s greatest soldiers of the cross, Thomas CRANMER. He was born at Aslacton, Nottinghamshire, England, educated at Cambridge, and became one of the most distinguished theologians of his time. In his early life he was distressed by the death of his wife, who died in childbirth.
When Henry VIII sought to divorce his wife Catherine to marry Anne oleyn, CRANMER defended the king’s right to do this, which brought him favor with the king, resulting in Cranmer’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533.
The chief reason that Cranmer approved of the kings’s divorce was that Rome sought to rule England and the kings’ action was largely in defiance to Popery. Both CRANMER and the king felt that the church in any country should be governed by its own ruler and not by distant Rome. this point of view helped bring forth the Protestant Reformation in England.
In 1540 Archbishop Cranmer promoted the publication of the “Great Bible,” making an English version available in the churches for the first time. This incensed the Catholic machine and tolled the death knell for Cranmer eventually.
Soon after the English Reformation, young King Edward VI came to the throne. CRANMER tried diligently to make the Church of England (Episcopalian in the U.S.) a church more deeply grounded in the Person and works of Jesus Christ, swinging it away from the falsehood of
Before Edward VI died in 1553, Cranmer promised him that he would support the Protestant Lady Jane Grey as the new ruler. However, unfortunately the daughter of Henry VIII, Mary, a Roman Catholic, triumphed and she immediately condemned Cranmer to death. Only a technicality prevented him from being burned at the stake at once: he could be sentenced only by ecclesiastical authority. A way having been found around the difficulty, the Archbishop again stood trial in Oxford in 1555 and was again condemned. The wicked Catholic Queen decided to make his burning a triple event. Two other ex-Catholics, Bishops Latimer and Ridley, would be burned also while Cranmer would be forced to watch the horrible scene before he too went to the stake.
Bishop Ridley was offered freedom if he would recant of his departure from the Catholic faith and return. However, he steadfastly refused. As the fire was being lighted, Bishop Latimer spoke to Ridley saying, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s graces, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
While the flames were consuming Bishops Ridley and Latimer, the fiendish agents of Popery decided to “degrade” Archbishop CRANMER before he died. So, dressed in the vestments of seven churchly grades, and with his pall (shoulder band worn by Archbishops) and episcopal staff, he was publicly paraded. CRANMER, who had only two or three years earlier been the highest churchman in the land, was now mocked, his pall removed, his staff wrenched from his hand.
Then one by one, with subtle cruelty, he was deprived of his orders, and his head was shaved. “Now are you lord no more!” gloated one of his persecutors. CRANMER replied meekly, “I had myself done with this gear long ago.”
Dressed then in a threadbare gown, the first Reformed Archbishop of Canterbury was then as a common layman handed over to the secular authorities who had by this time decided to delay his death for five months, hoping, evidently that he would recant and return to the Roman fold. His enemies were convinced that the Protestant cause had been dealt a great blow in England.
On March 21, 1556, Cranmer was taken to St. Mary’s Church in Oxford. Here he was asked to express “the true and undoubted profession of your faith.” CRANMER rose to speak. He said, “I will declare unto you my faith without any color or dissimulation,” and he did just that. He solemnly warned against all doting on this false world. He then took back all he had written against Reformed doctrine during his five months of interrogation, admitting that he had written it in fear of death and said, “The hand that wrote those things shall be burned first.” He no doubt had in mind one of the confessions he had written in the Church of England Book of Common Prayer (which he formed) which states, “By reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright.”
His enemies were outraged, this is not what they had expected to hear. Before he could finish his speech, they seized him and dragged him from the church. Through the streets of Oxford they marched him until they reached the stake. As the flames leaped up, he held his right hand out so that it might be consumed first. He made no utterance except to shout out, “I see heaven open and Jesus on the right hand of God.”
Mention should be made here of some of the events of that day that shaped the career of Thomas CRANMER. King Henry VIII had a long-running argument with the Pope of Rome who held power over England. Henry then began the Protestant Reformation in England. Monastic property was seized, priests were to be under submission to the king and heretics were to be executed. CRANMER agreed that heretics should be eliminated but pled for leniency for them, saying that they had thus far had no chance to come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel.
He was determined to give the people the Bible in their own language and a Book of Common Prayer, breaking away from the blasphemous mass in Latin. In the preface of the Book of Common Prayer he wrote, “Here are left out many things whereof some are untrue, some uncertain, some vain and superstitious.” He was convinced that the Bible conveyed all things necessary both for salvation and daily guidance. He said, “In the Scripture be the fat pasture for the soul. Here may all manner of persons learn all things what they ought to believe, what they ought to do and what they should not do.” At a time when corruption was rampant among the Catholic hierarchy, CRANMER took a strong stand against the dangers of wealth and accumulated none. He once remarked that he found it easier to live financially when he was a student than he did as Archbishop.
The flames that took the lives of the martyrs have now burned themselves out but the candles lighted by those faithful servants still burn, a reminder to us in this day to be watchful and diligent, standing steadfastly in the faith of the saints and for the Gospel that came to us as the result of the Protestant Reformation.
If the smoke of martyrs’ homes and bodies were to roll up all at once, it would eclipse the noonday sun and turn the brightest day the world ever saw into a midnight. In a 1973 Revelation book, Dr. Tim LaHaye said: “Protestant ecumenicists should keep in mind that Rome has a long history of persecuting Christians, and has not hesitated to put to death all that oppose her. He quoted Halley’s Bible Handbook to show that during the Inquisition (1540-1570) no fewer than 900,000 Protestants were put to death in the pope’s war to exterminate the Waldenses.
In the Netherlands over 100,000 were massacred. In St. Bartholomew’s Massacre, 70,000 Huguenots were killed on August 24, 1572. In the Huguenot wars, 200,000 perished and 500,000 fled. In Bohemia, by 1600, in a population of 4 million, 80 percent were Protestant; but when the Hapsburgs and Jesuits were through, 800,000 were left, all Catholics.”
LaHaye goes on to say, “She has never publicly apologized for her sin. Calling us ‘separated brethren’ is just an accommodation to gain acceptance. When she is established in power, you can expect additional outbreaks of the Inquisition.”