« PreviousContinue »
length, fire being set to the pile, Latimer was soon out of pain ; but Ridley continued to suffer much longer, his legs being consumed before the fire reached his vitals. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, had less courage at first. His love of life, in an unguarded moment, induced him to sign a paper condemning the reformation. Of this act, he afterwards bitterly repented. Being led to the stake, and the fire beginning to be kindled round him, he stretched forth his right hand and held it in the flames till it was consumed; exclaiming several times, “ This hand has offended! This wicked hand has offended !" When it dropped off, he discovered a serenity in his countenance, as if satisfied with sacrificing to divine justice the instrument of his crime. “ When the fire attacked his body, he seemed to be insensible of his tortures; his mind was occupied wholly upon the hopes of a future reward. After his body was destroyed, his heart was found entire ; an emblem of the constancy with which he suffered.'
59. SUFFERINGS AND MARTYRDOM OF ANNE Askew.
ANNE Askew was the second daughter of sir William Askew, of Kelsey, in Lincolnshire. She had received a genteel education, which, with an agreeable person and good understanding, rendered her a very proper person to be at the head of a family. Her father, regardless of his daughter's inclination and happiness, obliged her to marry a gentleman who had nothing to recommend him but his fortune ; and who was a most bigoted papist. No sooner was he convinced of his wife's regard for the doctrines of the reformation from popery, than, by the instigation of the priests, he violently drove her from his house, though she had borne him two children, and her conduct was unexceptionable. Abandoned by her husband, she came up to London in order to procure a divorce, and to make herself known to that part of the court who either professed or were favourers of protestantism; but as Henry VIII., with
Goldsmith's History of England.
consent of parliament, had just enacted the law of the six articles, commonly called the Bloody Statute, she was cruelly betrayed by her own husband, taken into custody upon his information, and examined concerning her faith. The act above mentioned denounced death against all those who should deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, or that bread and wine made use of in. the sacrament were not converted, after consecration, into the real body and blood of Christ; or maintain the necessity of receiving the sacrament in both kinds ; or affirm that it was lawful for priests to marry ; that the vows of celibacy might be broken ; that private masses were of no avail ; and that auricular confession to a priest was not necessary to salvation. Upon these articles she was examined by the inquisitor, a priest, the lord mayor of London, and the bishop's chancellor, and to all their queries gave proper and pertinent answers ; but not being such as they approved, she was sent back to prison, where she remained eleven days, to ruminate alone on her alarming situation, being even denied the small consolation of a friendly visit. The king's counsel being at Greenwich, she was once more examined by chancellor Wriothesley, Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, Dr. Cox and Dr. Robinson, but not being able to convince her of her supposed errors, she was sent to the tower. It was strongly suspected that Mrs. Askew was favoured by some ladies of high rank, and that she carried on a religious correspondence with the queen; so that chancellor Wriothesley, hoping that he might discover something that would afford matter of impeachment against that princess, the earl of Hertford, or his countess, who all favoured the reformation, ordered her to be put to the rack ; but her fortitude in suffering, and her resolution not to betray her friends, were proof against that diabolical invention. Not a groan nor a word could be extorted from her. The chancellor, provoked with what he called her obstinacy, augmented her tortures with his own hands, and with unheard of violence ; but her courage and constancy were invincible, and these barbarians gained nothing by their cruelties but everlasting
disgrace and infamy. As soon as she was taken from the rack, she fainted away; but, being recovered, she was condemned to the flames. Her bones were dislo. cated in such a manner that they were forced to carry her in a chair to the place of execution. While she was at the stake, letters were brought her from the lord chancellor, offering her the king's pardon if she would recant; but she refused to look at them, telling the messenger “ that she came not thither to deny her lord and master.” The same letters were also tendered to three other persons condemned to the same fate, and who, animated by her example, refused to accept them ; whereupon the lord mayor commanded the fire to be kindled, and with savage ignorance, cried out, “ Fiat justitia”—Let justice take its course.
The fagots being lighted, she commended her soul, with the utmost composure, into the hands of her Maker, and, like the great founder of the religion she professed, expired praying for her murderers, July 16th, 1549, about the twenty-fifth year of her age.
6 I do not know," observes a good English writer, " if all circumstances be considered, whether the history of this or any other nation can furnish a more illustrious example than this now related. To her father's will she sacrificed her own inclinations; to a husband unworthy her affections she behaved with prudence, respect and obedience; the secrets of her friends she preserved inviolable, even amidst the tortures of the rack. Her constancy in suffering, considering her age and sex, was equal, at least, if not superior, to any thing on record, and her piety was genuine and unaffected, of which she gave the most exalted proof in dying a martyr for the cause of her religion and liberty of conscience. But who can read this example, and not lament and detest that spirit of cruelty and inhumanity which are imbibed and cherished in the church of Rome ? a spirit repugnant to the feelings of nature, and directly opposite to the conduct and disposition of the great Author of our religion, who came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.'