Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thomas Cranmer's Last Letter...

English reformer Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake on March 21, 1556 under Queen Mary after an imprisonment that began in September 1553. It was at that time that Cranmer had said farewell to Peter Martyr Vermigli who,  in response to Cranmer's invitation in 1547, had come to England seeking refuge and was appointed to the position of Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford and canon of Christ Church. The following is the last known letter of Cranmer. He wrote it to Vermigli only a few months before his death. It was during these last months that Cranmer experienced his greatest trial of faith. The isolation of prison and the repeated efforts by Rome to persuade him to recant his reformed faith were exacting a toll on this old warrior. Yet this letter, almost prophetically, offers possible insight into Cranmer's understanding of his own growing weakness as well as the remaining resevoir of trust in his God and Saviour who, despite Cranmer's failings in the months ahead, ultimately and faithfully brought him through to the end:
After much health in Christ our Saviour. As letters are then only necessary, when the messenger is either not sufficiently discreet, or is unacquainted with the circumstances we wish to communicate, or not thought worthy to be entrusted with secrets; and since by the goodness of God the bearer of this has fallen in my way, a man, as you know, of signal discretion, most faithful in all matters entrusted to him, exceedingly attached to us both, and possessing an entire acquaintance with the circumstances of our country, from whose mouth you may learn all that has taken place here; I have not thought it needful to write to you more at length, especially as letters are wont to occasion so much danger and mischief. Yet I have not deemed it right to pass over this one thing, which I have learned by experience, namely, that God never shines forth more brightly, and pours out the beams of his mercy and consolation, or of strength and firmness of spirit, more clearly or impressively upon the minds of his people, than when they are under the most extreme pain and distress, both of mind and body, that he may then more especially shew himself to be the God of his people, when he seems to have altogether forsaken them; then raising them up when they think he is bringing them down, and laying them low; then glorifying them, when he is thought to be confounding them; then quickening them, when he is thought to be destroying them. So that we may say with Paul, " When I am weak, then am I strong; and if I must needs glory, I will glory in my infirmities, in prisons, in revilings, in distresses, in persecutions, in sufferings for Christ." I pray God to grant that I may endure to the end! Nothing is at this time more distressing to me, than that no answer has as yet been given to M. A, to whose subtilties, and juggling tricks, and ravings, a reply would not have been wanting long since, had not books and liberty been wanting to myself. I have written to no one but you, nor do I wish any one to know that I have written to you: wherefore salute no one in my name.
[This letter was printed for the first time by the Parker Society. It was discovered at Zurich by the Rev. Stewart A. Pears, in 1843]

No comments:

Post a Comment