Friday is for Heart Songs
I love biographies of great saints of the cross who gave their all for the cause of Christ. Here’s one I had not heard of that encouraged my soul. May it do so for you too. The God you serve is worthy of everything you have to give and more. The following is from Kairos Journal.
Content to Suffer for Christ
In August 1532, a poor and tattered man returned to England from exile in Europe. None of King Henry’s agents recognized one of England’s greatest evangelical scholars as he crept back to his homeland to continue the work of Reformation. John Frith’s poverty was not a costume; he knew what it was to suffer and struggle to survive in a hostile situation.1 It had not always been this way. Frith had been recognized from an early age as a great Oxford scholar and a man with exciting prospects.
England in the 1530s was a dangerous place for Protestants. Many men had been raised up by God to translate the Bible into English and preach it to the people, but there were many, including King Henry VIII, who were vicious and determined in their opposition. Henry did not hesitate to punish with death those who could no longer be regarded as loyal Catholics. Many of Frith’s friends were martyred in the fires of persecution.
It is this which makes Frith’s return to England so remarkable. He came at a time when capture meant certain death, and yet he returned. Henry’s servant Sir Thomas More hunted for Frith, hoping both to destroy him, and through Frith reach his greatest enemy, William Tyndale. Frith knew the dangers he faced and attempted to keep a low profile. Yet there was a gospel fire in his heart which could not be held back. Frith knew England needed the message of Christ crucified, and he preached it.
In October 1532, just as Frith was about to board a ship to the Low Countries to be with Tyndale, he was betrayed and taken by agents of Sir Thomas More. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he faced not only the humiliation of capture, but intense pressure from Catholic theologians and bishops who attempted to persuade him, with little success, to abandon his gospel faith. Victory went to the gospel. From his prison cell Frith persuaded one of his chief adversaries, John Rastell (the brother-in-law of Sir Thomas More), of true biblical religion. Frith remained faithful to Christ until the moment when he was required to seal his testimony with his own blood. On July 4, 1553, he was burnt to death at Smithfield in London.
John Frith gave all he had for the cause of Christ’s gospel. He was no sectarian, he called evangelicals to unite around the doctrine of justification by faith alone and to show charity in secondary matters. All his natural gifts, in particular his extraordinary intellect, were placed in the service of Christ. He sought to serve and glorify a single Master. As a young man he had the world at his feet, he could have enjoyed promotion to high office in Church or State, yet he chose the way of the cross. At his death all he had left was his faith, his trust in a crucified and risen Savior. He is a sign to those who now follow him, that when Christ is all we have, Christ is sufficient for all our needs.
1 For a description of John Frith’s life and martyrdom see, John Foxe, The Acts of Monuments of John Foxe, vol. 5 (London: R.B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1838), 3-13. See also, Marcus Loane, Pioneers of the Reformation in England (London: The Church Book Room Press, 1964), 3-45.