Queen Mary ascended the throne of England in 1553. In subsequent years, she had at least two hundred
people put to death (often by fire) for their religious convictions. To history she became known as "Bloody
Mary," although, in truth, she killed far fewer people per year than her brutal father. It was the godliness of
many of her victims made them stand out.
Mary's father, King Henry VIII had separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic church, but he
had not reformed the church's practices or doctrines. On Henry's death, his young son Edward became King.
Many of Edward's advisors tried to move the English church in the direction of a more Bible-based Christianity.
Two such men were Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer.
The scholar Nicholas Ridley had been a chaplain to King Henry VIII and was Bishop of London under his son
Edward. He was a preacher beloved of his congregation whose very life portrayed the truths of the Christian
doctrines he taught. In his own household he had daily Bible readings and encouraged Scripture memory
among his people.
Hugh Latimer also became an influential preacher under King Edward's reign. He was an earnest student of
the Bible, and as Bishop of Worcester he encouraged the Scriptures be known in English by the people. His
sermons emphasized that men should serve the Lord with a true heart and inward affection, not just with
outward show. Latimer's personal life also re-enforced his preaching. He was renowned for his works,
especially his visitations to the prisons.
When Mary became Queen of England, she worked to bring England back to the Roman Catholic Church.
One of her first acts was to arrest Bishop Ridley, Bishop Latimer, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. After
serving time in the Tower of London, the three were taken to Oxford in September of 1555 to be examined
Before a vast crowd of friends and enemies, the Archbishop thrust his hand into the fire. He was going
to his death by being burned at the stake but insisted that the hand that was guilty of such shameful sin
must burn first. Jesus said "It is better to lose a limb than for your whole body to go to hell," and Cranmer
took him at his word.
He went in style, but Thomas Cranmer was not a natural martyr.
Admittedly he was committed to his Protestant faith in Catholic England at a time when that could be quite
dangerous. And he rose to the highest position in the English Church, becoming the first Protestant
Archbishop of Canterbury. But he loved his comfortable life of quiet scholarship. When it came to it,
would he have the courage to take the ultimate stand for his faith? It was a close call. Here is his most
unlikely story -- one that did much to shape the world of his day right down to our own day. Cranmer
was born into a mildly well-to-do family in Nottinghamshire, England, in 1489. He studied at Jesus
College, Cambridge, taking a surprising eight years to get his degree. After attaining his MA, he
suddenly gave up any prospect of an ecclesiastical or academic career by marrying for love. When
his wife Joan died in childbirth he was crushed, but he was destined as a result of this loss, to become possibly the most influential figure in the history of the English church. Continue Reading