NOW, I CAN BURN!
William Andrew Dillard
Parson to Person
The dark ages are appropriately named. It was a time when knowledge was stifled, persecution rampant, and martyrs made in wholesale numbers as one may readily and correctly infer from such documents as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; A History of the Churches of the Valleys of Piedmont, and other such historical books.
Almost within shouting distance of the famous Oxford University, the powers of England burned William Tyndale at the stake as he prayed “Lord open the eyes of the King of England.” His crime: translating the Holy Scriptures into the English Language so common people might know God’s truth in a time of terrible clerical corruption.
Among many English martyrs is one notable Thomas Cranmer. He was a religious cleric who lived in the stormy political time of King Henry VIII. It was a time when religious reformation was gaining acceptance, but with a terrible price. Cranmer did the bidding of kings, and was reluctantly promoted into the office of Archbishop of Canterbury. Pressure on his life was so intense that he finally wrote things he did not believe, but to his credit, he recanted his recantations in public forums as well as in written form.
Cranmer was tried, condemned as a heretic and subsequently burned at the stake at Oxford in 1556. He was so remorseful of his earlier actions, and so willing to die rather than re-affirm them, that when put to the stake and the fire began, he said with his hand first extended to the flame, that with this hand I have written offensive things to my very heart, and it should burn first. With his hand steadily in the fire, he was heard to say, “Now I can burn!” In a short time, the man who had served royalty stood by his heart’s convictions and calmly died, consumed by flames without crying out.
So many have paid the ultimate price for matters of faith ( Heb. 11). We need not endorse their every tenant of faith, but, let us not fail them with infidelity to our biblical convictions, even many of those same convictions for which so many died.