Martyrs: Triumphant in the Flames
Thomas Hawkes, who, with six others, was condemned to death on February 9, 1555. Hawkes was a young man of good stature who had been in the service of the Earl of Oxford. He was well versed in the Scriptures, and thus he had refused to have his child baptized in the Roman church. After being arrested, he was held prisoner in the gatehouse for many terrible months as he was being tried by the infamous Bishop Edmund Bonner of London. After Hawkes endured the agony of the long incarceration, Bishop Bonner finally decided upon the death penalty.
A short while before Hawkes’s death, a group of his friends promised to pray for him in the dread hour of trial and asked for a sign if he realized that Christ was with him in the torture. He agreed with their request and decided that he would lift up his hands in token that he was at peace.
The day of his execution—June 25, 1555—arrived, and Hawkes was led away to the stake by Lord Rich where Hawkes would become a fiery sacrifice on the altar of religious prejudice. When he came to the post where he would be burned, a heavy chain was thrown around his waist, and he was secured. After bearing witness to those close at hand, he poured out his heart to God in prayer, and the fire was kindled. The sun shone brightly on those assembled to see him die, but a group of friends stood praying and straining eager eyes for the gesture of victory.
The victim did not move and slowly the flames enveloped his body. When he had continued long in it, and his speech was taken away by violence of the flame, his skin drawn together, and his fingers consumed with the fire, so that it was thought that he was gone, suddenly and contrary to all expectation, this good man being mindful of his promise, reached up his hands burning in flames over his head to the loving God, and with great rejoicing as it seemed, struck or clapped them three times together. A great shout followed this wonderful circumstance, and then this blessed martyr of Christ, sinking down in the fire, gave up his spirit.
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/Cummins) pp. 260 – 261.