Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 26 - John Bradford, Martyr, Roving Chaplain, Reformer

While John Bradford was confined to the royal prison--the Tower of London to be precise--he was far away from his books and academic world but that is where all of this had started. Born to a wealthy family, he was given the gift of a good and comprehensive education. From there, John went on to study more and pursue an intellectual career emphasizing his greatest strength: accounting and mathematics. He served as an officer in King Henry VIII's army and was in the position of accounting for payroll for the soldiers who fought Henry's wars. After this, he pursued a career in law as a legal professional but while studying he had the mixed fortune of befriending a man who supported the English reformation. As he studied and talked with his new friend he found himself slowly but steadily being won over to the Anglican church in particular and the teachings of the Church in general. The earnest eagerness of his friend convinced John to take his faith ever more seriously. He could stand it no longer and so he stopped studying law and started studying theology so he might become a minister of the faith he had been infected with.

When he had received his education he began his clerical career first as a teaching fellow and secondly as an ordained priest who was given a region to rove and preach in. With Anglican leaders in control of Britain, he was not under immediate threat but tensions were high with other Christians--Roman Catholic Christians in particular. He preached and taught and served the Faith as best he knew how until Mary Tudor took control of the throne and fortunes were reversed. Soon thereafter he was arrested on charges of attempting to incite mob activity. These trumped up charges took away his freedom and imprisoned him in the Tower of London. It was from his window in the tower that he looked down upon some anonymous criminal going off to die for his crimes and remarked, "There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford." John had not lost his connection with God's grace and his need for God's forgiveness even as he had gained honor and received suffering. He knew well that it was only the grace of God that separated him from a life of unrepentant corruption. One thing he would share with that criminal, though, was a state-sponsored death.

Some time after his famous remark, he was charged and tried before a court disposed toward execution. Predictably, he was found guilty and condemned to death at the hands of an Empire that would not accept his brand of resistance. He was tied to a stake with another man and wood was piled around his feet and body. As they brought the torch, he asked for forgiveness for any that he might have wronged and publicly offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him.Enveloped in forgiveness on all sides, he was set ablaze by murderous hands. He died a martyr of the reformation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. There with the grace of God went John Bradford.

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