J.C. Ryle: Cranmer brought out “like Samson in the hands of the Philistines”

7 03 2012

Below is an excerpt from Bishop Ryle’s essay “Why were our Reformers Burned?” from a collection of essays in his famous Knots Untied.  You’ll notice that I’ve been trying to post at least one thing per week on Anglican history, because Anglican history is rich and inspiring.  Not only is it rich and inspiring, but sadly it is neglected.  Our Anglican Reformers were faithful, Gospel centered, Jesus loving pastors, many of whom gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel.  Below is Ryle’s account of Cranmer’s martyrdom.  If you are unfamiliar with Cranmer’s martyrdom, the language of “recantations” may be cause for confusion.  The short story is that Cranmer recanted his Gospel faith and was meant to re-join “Bloody Mary’s” church.  However at the last minute he “recanted his recantation.”  The account is below.  Click through the link to read the entire essay.  

I need hardly remind you how, on the 21st March, the unhappy Archbishop was brought out, like Samson in the hands of the Philistines, to make sport for his enemies, and to be a gazingstock to the world in St. Mary’s Church. I need hardly remind you how, after Dr. Cole’s sermon, he was invited to declare his faith, and was fully expected to publicly acknowledge his alteration of religion, and his adhesion to the Church of Rome. I need hardly remind you how, with intense mental suffering, the Archbishop addressed the assembly at length, and at the close suddenly astounded his enemies by renouncing all his recantations…Such a sight was certainly never seen by mortal eyes since the world began!

But then came the time of Cranmer’s triumph. Light of heart and clear in conscience, he allowed himself cheerfully to be hurried to the stake amidst the frenzied outcries of his disappointed enemies. Boldly and undauntedly he stood up at the stake while the flames curled around him, steadily holding out his right hand in the fire and saying, with reference to his having signed a recantation, “This unworthy right hand,” and steadily holding up his left hand towards heaven.(5) Of all the martyrs, strange to say, none at the last moment showed more physical courage than Cranmer did. Nothing, in short, in all his life became him so well as the manner of his leaving it. Greatly he had sinned, but greatly he had repented. Like Peter he fell, but like Peter he rose again. And so passed away the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.

Click here to read the whole thing



2 responses

8 03 2012
Matt Cullum

Thanks for sharing this. I knew the story but Ryle uses beautiful language to describe it. By the way, I hope all is well in Mt. Pleasant! Myrtle Beach misses you.

12 03 2012

Ryle does have a way with words! Things are well down here. Miss you guys

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