John Bland, Minister and Martyr, 1555
As one of my main goals is to breathe names, faces, and identities into the memories of the Reformation-era Protestant martyrs, I was surprised to note that I had not yet featured any Anglican martyrs. Anglicanism, though owing much of its existence to Henry VIII’s own familial schemes, was very much a product of the Reformation in the way it grew and developed and responded to Protestant thought patterns already circulating in Europe.
Yesterday I discovered the Canterbury Martyrs who died in July 1555. Their names were John Frankesh, John Bland, Nicholas Sheterden, and Humphrey Middleton. The first two men were ministers and all four held religious positions. One must wonder how they knew each other (for they surely did, or if not, their shared fate would have certainly united their spirits) and what family lives they had. Following are choice parts of John Bland’s prayer upon his execution. It was written in the language of the day, so I have tried to “modernize” so his words are better understood. “. . . I choose rather the torments of this body, and loss of this my life, and have counted all things but vile, dust, and dung, that I might win thee: Which death is more dear unto me, than thousands of gold and silver.”
He ended, “Accept this burnt offering and sacrifice, O Lord, not for the sacrifice itself, but for thy dear Son’s sake my Savior: for whose testimony I offer this free will offering with all my heart and with all my soul. O heavenly Father, forgive me my sins, as I forgive the whole world. O sweet Savior, spread thy wings over me. O God, grant me thy Holy Ghost, through whose merciful inspiration I am come hither. Conduct me unto everlasting life. Lord into thy hands I commend my spirit: Lord Jesus receive my soul. So be it.”
There were thousands of similar prayers breathed throughout the Reformation era, in different languages, in different circumstances, and in different sentiments. But each entreaty was, without a doubt, carefully stored by our Lord and Savior.
(c) 2012 Joyously Saved