Sitting at my desk in my office I can see 15 Bibles in my native tongue, not to mention the instant access I have through Biblegateway.com, BlueletterBible, or the numerous apps on my iPhone. It is far too easy for us to take this treasure for granted, we can read the very words of God in our native language whenever we please. It was not all that long ago that this was not the case. The following is a faithful account of just one instance of the Roman Catholic church cruelly persecuting pious Christians for the “crime” of possessing mere portions of the Bible in English.
And this was not all. There lived at Coventry a little band of serious Christians — four shoemakers, a glover, a hosier, and a widow named Smith — who gave their children a pious education. The Franciscans were annoyed that laymen, and even a woman, should dare meddle with religious instruction. On Ash Wednesday (1519), Simon Morton, the bishop’s sumner, apprehended them all, men, women, and children. On the following Friday, the parents were taken to the abbey of Mackstock, about six miles from Coventry, and the children to the Greyfriars’ convent. “Let us see what heresies you have been taught?” said Friar Stafford to the intimidated little ones. The poor children confessed they had been taught in English the Lord’s prayer, the apostles’ creed, and the ten commandments. On hearing this, Stafford told them angrily: “I forbid you (unless you wish to be burnt as your parents will be) to have anything to do with the Pater, the credo, or the ten commandments in English.”
Five weeks after this, the men were condemned to be burnt alive; but the judges had compassion on the widow because of her young family (for she was their only support), and let her go. It was night: Morton offered to see Dame Smith home; she took his arm, and they threaded the dark and narrow streets of Coventry. “Eh! eh!” said the apparitor on a sudden, “what have we here?” He heard in fact the noise of paper rubbing against something. “What have you got there?” he continued, dropping her arm, and putting his hand up her sleeve, from which he drew out a parchment. Approaching a window whence issued the faint rays of a lamp, he examined the mysterious scroll, and found it to contain the Lord’s prayer, the apostles’ creed, and the ten commandments in English. “Oh, oh! sirrah!” said he; “come along. As good now as another time!” Then seizing the poor widow by the arm, he dragged her before the bishop. Sentence of death was immediately pronounced on her; and on the 4th of April, Dame Smith, Robert Hatchets, Archer, Hawkins, Thomas Bond, Wrigsham, and Landsdale, were burnt alive at Coventry in the Little Park, for the crime of teaching their children the Lord’s prayer, the apostles’ creed, and the commandments of God.[i]
Oh what privileges we enjoy that those who went before us could only dream of. Let us give all praise and honor to our faithful God and Savior Jesus Christ in gratitude for providing this treasure we possess. We have no promise that this privilege will not be taken away from us in the future.
(Remembering atrocities such as this gives us a little more insight into that often dismissed statement in Chapter 26 paragraph 4 of the 1689 doesn’t it? You know the one I’m talking about.)
His Throne is Forever and Ever!
[i] J. H. Merle d’Aubigne, The History of the Reformation in the 16th Century, pp. 1740, 1741