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Monday, September 25, 2017
Date Posted:

Thomas Cranmer

The first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury - burned at the stake by Rome
Professor Arthur Noble

Thomas Cranmer was born in the year 1489 at Alsacton, near Nottingham, and educated at Cambridge. At that time the doctrines of Luther were much discussed, and Cranmer set to work to test them by the Word of God. Day by day he searched the Bible.

On the death of Archbishop Warham the King's great desire was to place Thomas Cranmer in the vacant see. From the outset Cranmer would accept the archbishopric as coming from the King alone: the Pope was for him entirely out of the question. Hence he may be considered the first Protestant Archbishop.

Cranmer's love for the Gospel. Cranmer loved the Gospel, and this love inspired him to press forward for the emancipation of his fellow-countrymen from the heavy yoke of Roman Catholicism. In 1534, by royal order, a copy of the Bible was placed in every parish church so that all might read the Word of God. It was received with joy, and crowds flocked to read it. Fox tells in his Book of Martyrs of two apprentices who pooled their salary and bought a Bible which they read at every possible opportunity, and for fear of their master, who was a Papist, they kept it under the straw of their bed.

On January 28th, 1547, Henry VIII died, and Edward VI, in his tenth year, ascended the Throne. Cranmer had the honour of placing the royal Crown on the head of the new Monarch of England.

"The Word of God," replied Edward, "which is the sword of the Spirit, without which no man should rule, and which is to be preferred before all others." At the preparation for the royal procession three swords were brought to be carried before the young King as symbols of his three kingdoms, but he said: "Yet there is one sword lacking." "What is that?" he was asked. "The Word of God," replied Edward, "which is the sword of the Spirit, without which no man should rule, and which is to be preferred before all others." A Bible was therefore brought and carried in front of the procession.

On the death of Edward VI, Mary ascended the Throne and at once sent a messenger to Rome to declare her allegiance to the Pope. The signs were ominous, and Mary lost no time in exerting every effort to undo the good which had been wrought during the reign of her father and brother. She summoned Gardiner and Bonner to aid her in her intended aim, and displaced all who were favourable to the Reformation. Her plans and schemes were pushed forward with zealous haste. She replaced all laws made by Edward VI respecting religion. Protestant champions were forced to seal their testimony with their blood, and thus passed away to glory.

The martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley. Cranmer was arrested at his palace at Ford, near Canterbury, and together with Ridley and Latimer was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The two latter men were soon hurried to the stake, and history has handed down to us the memorable parting words of Latimer to Ridley: "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle in England, which by God's grace shall never be put out."
Cranmer's life was spared a little longer... Cranmer's life was spared a little longer, but he was subjected to gross indignities and degradation. Bonner, whose real name was Savage (a name which appropriately reflected his nature), treated him with great insult, calling him mockingly 'Mr. Canterbury'. Eventually he was trapped, by cunning and crafty men, into signing a submission to the Pope, after which he was taken to St. Mary's Church and there commanded to make known in public the recantation that he had been beguiled into making in private.

Cranmer readily rose to his feet, but only to make a declaration that he still abhorred the Romish doctrines and held steadfastly to the Protestant faith; but he said that he was troubled because his hand had offended, writing contrary to his heart, and that, should he come to the fire, his right hand should first be punished.

The martyrdom of Cranmer At these words the wrath of his enemies burned furiously, and he was immediately hurried off to the stake already set up. When the fire was lit he thrust in his right hand, holding it there and saying again and again: "That unworthy right hand." At the end, raising his eyes, he was heard to say: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Amongst the many monuments which Canterbury contains to the memory of its departed, no memorial can be found to the good Archbishop Cranmer, but as Strype says: "His martyrdom is his monument."

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