Faith in the Fire: 7 quotes from Reformation icon Thomas Cramner


A woodcut depiction of Thomas Cramner’s fiery execution, from John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563)Wikimedia Commons

On this day in 1556, Thomas Cramner was burned alive.

Cramner was a leading light in the English Reformation, at one time the Archbishop of Canterbury and a key founding figure in the Church of England. His legacy is much in his words – he composed much of the iconic Book of Common Prayer, and the doctrinal statement known as the Thirty-nine articles. Today, his name lives on as the handle of a popular Anglican blogger.

When Queen Mary I, a Catholic, was enthroned, she had Protestant Cramner tried for heresy and treason. He was forced to denounce his Protestant beliefs and swear allegiance to the Pope. He still faced the death penalty, but moments before he was burned alive Cramner dramatically revoked his recantations and declared the Pope the antichrist. He thrust his hand into the fire first as a sign of remorse for his writings.

The poet William Wordsworth wrote in his sonnet on Cramner:

‘Outstretching flame-ward his upbraided hand
(O God of mercy, may no earthly seat
Of judgement such presumptuous doom repeat!)
Amid the shuddering throng doth Cranmer stand’.

To his dying breath, Cramner knew the weight of words. Here are 7 of his best quotes.

1. He began his speech on the day of his death:

‘Every man desireth, good people, at the time of their deaths, to give some good exhortation that others may remember after their deaths, and be the better thereby. So I beseech God grant me grace, that I may speak something at this my departing, whereby God may be glorified and you edified.’

2. On the Bible:

‘In the Scriptures be the fat pastures of the soul; therein is no venomous meat, no unwholesome thing; they be the very dainty and pure feeding. He that is ignorant, shall find there what he should learn.’

3. Moments before he was executed:

Cramner was an architect of the English Reformation.Wikimedia Commons

‘The third exhortation is, that you love all together like brethren and sisters. For alas, pity it is to see, what contention and hatred one Christian man hath to another; not taking each other, as sisters and brothers; but rather as strangers and mortal enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one lesson, To do good to all men as much as in you lieth, and to hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural and loving brother or sister.’

4. ‘What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.’

5. ‘In the midst of life we are in death, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.’

6. ‘There was never anything so well devised by men which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.’

7. ‘I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life passed, and my life to come, either to live with my Saviour Christ in heaven, in joy, or else to be in pain ever with wicked devils in hell; and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith, how I believe, without colour or dissimulation. For now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have written in times past.’

You can follow @JosephHartropp on Twitter

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