It kind of shook me up to read about John Bradford (1510-1555). I’ve been to London in the winter and seen the dreary cold. I have been to the Tower of London and heard the stories of the gruesome beheadings that took place. Somehow Bradford’s life seemed to combine them both. Yet it is a story of faith.
He was a Protestant pastor in England that was forced to yield his pulpit to the Catholic Church in 1553. Depending on who was on the throne, the nation swung back and forth between the Catholics and the Protestants during these years.
When the new bishop came to preach in Bradford’s church, the congregation could hardly stand it. So they booed and heckled the bishop, Gilbert Bourne. Bradford had to stand behind him in the pulpit to stop the congregation’s heckling. Someone even hurled a dagger at the bishop. Leaving the service, Bradford shielded the bishop from the angry crowd and was able to get him to safety.
Three days later he was arrested on the charge of sedition, and tried by the Roman Catholic bishops. He was found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to death by burning.
The next couple of months he would preach in his jail 2 times a day. When the day of his execution arrived, he knew that God had made him worthy to die. As he arrived at the stake, he lay face down on the ground and prayed silently. Then, turning to a young man who was to be burned with him he said, “Be of good comfort, brother, we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night.”
But Britain is a civilized country. They speak English. I know they are damp and dreary. But they are like us. How could someone be sentenced unfairly to death when all he wanted to do was preach the gospel? Yes, and for the gospel he was willing to go to his death without bitterness. So much unfairness! So much pain! Unfair! Where is God? Why does he allow such brutality? Doesn’t God inevitably save the just?
Life does involve suffering, unfairness and pain. We can let the hot cauldron of life turn us bitter or better. What is your choice? What do you choose?