For three or four months now, when on my lunch break, I have been reading the book Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, edited by Grinton Berry. There have been many editions of the original book down through the years. This one is quite short (409 pages) compared to the original, however, “nothing essential has been omitted.”
Most of the martyrs recorded here are from the 1500’s, perpetrated by the Catholic Church. It was quite enlightening and shocking to read all the gruesome stories. So many true believers were held in damp, smelly dungeons and then burned alive at the stake. Why? Because they refused to believe in the Catholic doctrine and so were labeled a heretic.
This book gave me light to what evil has existed in world history, but I have also been so encouraged and blessed by those who refused to recant and who courageously marched to their death—to be burned alive! My faith has been strengthened. Here is one short excerpt:
Thomas Hauker being bound to the stake, the fire was set unto him. In the which when he continued long, and when his speech was taken away by violence of the flame, his skin also drawn together, and his fingers consumed with the fire, so that now all men thought certainly he had been gone, suddenly, and contrary to all expectation, the blessed servant of God reached up his hands burning on a light fire, which was marvelous to behold, over his head to the living God, and with great rejoicing, as it seemed, struck or clapped them three times together. Which thing he had promised certain of his friends to do; and so, secretly between them, it was agreed, that if the rage of pain were tolerable and might be suffered, then he should lift up his hands above his head toward heaven, before he gave up the ghost.–Coggeshall, 1555. (pp. 393-394)
Many have died over the years like this one. As the evil one laughs, we are so sad, but we are also strengthened in our faith and are glad that all who have died in Christ now rest in peace. There are many these days—even this very day—who die cruel deaths because they believe in Jesus and will not recant their faith. They do not die in vain! They are my heroes!
Let us pray constantly for these heroes of faith: that they be strong to endure, and that God will bring them His mercy and comfort through all their pain.