Thomas Cranmer—Final Advice for Suffering Saints

by Aaron Dunlop

250px-Thomas-Cranmer-ezAfter the death of Edward VI Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury) signed several recantations of the Reformed Faith to appease the wicked Queen Mary. In the end she was not happy with a private signing and demanded a public signing and a public humiliation. When he came to sign the document in public he refused. Deviating from a speech he had previously prepared and submitted, he denounced the pope as antichrist and the Catholic religion as heresy: “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine.” He was pulled from the University Church (Oxford) and burned at the stake where Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley had been martyred just six months before.

With the flames growing around him, he fulfilled his promise he had made in the church and placed his right hand into the fire saying, “Forasmuch as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished there-for [sic].” He continued, for as long as he could, repeating; “that unworthy hand,” until finally he uttered his last words, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit…. I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (see Diarmaid MacCullouch, Yale University Press, 1996; p. 603).

Prior to his death Cranmer had written these words to his friend Peter Martyr:

Yet I have not deemed it right to pass over this one thing, which I have learned by experience, namely, that God never shines forth more brightly, and pours out the beams of his mercy and consolation, or of strength and firmness of spirit, more clearly or impressively upon the minds of his people, than when they are under the most extreme pain and distress, both of mind and body, that he may then more especially show himself to be the God of his people, when he seems to have altogether forsaken them; then raising them up when they think he is bringing them down, and laying them low; then glorifying them, when he is thought to be confounding them; then quickening them, when he is thought to be destroying them.

So that we may say with Paul, “When I am weak, then am I strong; and if I must needs glory, I will glory in my infirmities, in prisons, in reviling, in distresses, in persecutions, in sufferings for Christ.” I pray God to grant that I may endure to the end.

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