John Bradford: A Commemorative Note
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of the martyr John Bradford (1510-55). As a broken-hearted sinner, a self-condemning saint, a firm believer, a man of prayer, a sharp reprover of sin, a preacher with power, a comforter of others and a staunch martyr ‘for Christ’s gospel’s sake’ (his own words), Bradford was remarkable. At the meal table, his eyes often filled with tears as he thought on the vileness of his heart and the mercy of his Saviour. In prison, one of his inmates blessed God that he ever knew him. Shortly before his burning, he urged his mother to be as merry as he was. At the stake, he gave away the last of his earthly goods, and told the young man who was to suffer with him: ‘Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night.’
The following brief extracts from his Writings1 indicate the kind of Christian he was, and we should be:
Set my heart straight … to acknowledge Thee one God, to worship none other God, to reverence Thy name and to keep Thy Sabbaths. Set my heart right … to honour my parents, to obey rulers, and reverence the ministry of the gospel; to have hands clean from blood, true from theft, a body free from adultery, and a tongue void of all offence. But purge the heart first, O Lord, and then the hand, the eye, the tongue, the foot, and the whole body will be the cleaner. Write all these Thy laws in my heart, O Lord, and in the hearts of all the faithful people, that we may believe them and keep them all the days of our lives, to Thy glory and praise, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
Take to thee the glass of God’s law; look therein, and thou shalt see thy just damnation, and God’s wrath for sin, which, if thou dreadest, will drive thee not only to an amendment, but also to a sorrow and hatred of thy wickedness, and even to the brim of despair, out of which nothing can bring thee but the glad tidings of Christ, that is, the gospel: for as God’s word doth bind thee, so can nothing but God’s word unbind thee; and until thou comest to this point, thou knowest nothing of Christ.
O be thou merciful unto us, and in thine anger remember thy mercy; suffer thyself to be entreated; be reconciled unto us; nay, reconcile us unto thee. O thou God of justice, judge justly. O thou Son of God, which earnest to destroy the works of Satan, destroy his fury now smoking, and almost set on fire in this realm. We have sinned; we have sinned: and therefore thou art angry. O be not angry for ever. Give us peace, peace, peace in the Lord. Set us to war against sin, against Satan, against our carnal desires; and give us the victory this way.
In heaven and in earth was there none found that could satisfy God’s anger for our sins, or get heaven for man, but only the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, who by his blood hath wrought the work of satisfaction, and alonely is ‘worthy all honour, glory, and praise,’ for he hath ‘opened the book with the seven seals.’
Dearly beloved, therefore abhor this abomination, even to think that there is any other satisfaction to God-ward for sin than Christ’s blood only. Blasphemy it is, and that horrible, to think otherwise. ‘The blood of Christ purifieth,’ saith St. John, ‘from all sin.’ And therefore he is called ‘the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world;’ because there was never sin forgiven of God, nor shall be, from the beginning to the end of the world, but only through Christ’s death: prate the pope and his prelates as please them with their pardons, purgatory, purgations, placebos, trentals, diriges, works of supererogation, superabomination, etc. . . . And thus writeth St. John: ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate,’ saith he, ‘with the Father, even Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation (or satisfaction) for our sins.’
- The Writings of John Bradford
2 Volumes, reprinted from The Parker Society editions of 1848 & 1853
608 & 480 pages, clothbound (Currently out of print)
ISBN 978 0 85151 359 1
John Brentnall is the editor of Peace and Truth from which 2010:4 edition the above was taken with permission.
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