This Sunday at St. Andrew’s we continue our series on the church with the “Persecuted Church.” As the logic has gone for the past several weeks, the church is what it is because the Lord is who he is. We had (have!) a persecuted Lord, therefore we have a persecuted church. In the West we are fortunate that there is so little persecution of Christians, and of such little consequence, that it is hardly worth mentioning compared to our brothers and sisters scattered abroad. But it was not always so! Only a few hundred years ago it cost men and women a great deal to confess the name of Jesus Christ. Below is their story, written by J.C. Ryle, the first Bishop of Liverpool. You should read it. You should learn it. If you are an Anglican it is your story and that is all the more reason for some of you to settle in and work your way through the text.
It is fashionable in some quarters to deny that there is any such thing as certainty about religious truth, or any opinions for which it is worth while to be burned. Yet, 300 years ago, there were men who were certain they had found out truth, and content to die for their opinions.—It is fashionable in other quarters to leave out all the unpleasant things in history, and to paint everything of a rose-coloured hue. A very popular history of our English queens hardly mentions the martyrdoms of Queen Mary’s days. Yet Mary was not called “Bloody Mary” without reason, and scores of Protestants were burned in her reign.—Last, but not least, it is thought very bad taste in many quarters to say anything which throws discredit on the Church of Rome. Yet it is as certain that the Romish Church burned our English Reformers as it is that we are assembled in St. James’s Hall. These difficulties meet me face to face as I walk up to the subject which I am asked to unfold today. I know their magnitude, and I cannot evade them. I only ask you to give me a patient and indulgent hearing.
After all, I have great confidence in the honesty of Englishmen’s minds. Truth is truth, however long it may be neglected. Facts are facts, however long they may lie buried. I only want to dig up some old facts which the sands of time have covered over, to bring to the light of day some old English monuments which have been long neglected; to unstop some old wells which the prince of the world has been diligently filling with earth. Give me your attention for a few minutes, and I trust to be able to show you that it is good to examine the question, “Why were our Reformers Burned?”
Read the whole thing here