The Worlds Famous Orations. Great Britain: I. (7101777). 1906.
On the Eve of His Execution
Thomas Cranmer (14891556)
Born in 1489, died in 1556; made Chaplain to Henry VIII. in 1529; Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533; declared the marriage of Henry and Catharine invalid in 1533; abjured his allegiance to Rome in 1535; member of the regency for Edward VI. in 1547; signed the patent which settled the Crown on Lady Jane Gray in 1553; sent to the Tower for treason on the accession of Mary; condemned and burned for heresy.
GOOD1 peoplemy dearly beloved brethren in ChristI beseech you most heartily to pray for me to Almighty God, that He will forgive me all my sins and offenses, which are without number, and great above measure. But yet one thing grieveth my conscience more than all the rest, whereof, God willing, I intend to speak more hereafter. But how great and how many soever my sins be, I beseech you to pray to God of His mercy to pardon and forgive them all. [Here, kneeling down, Cranmer made the following prayer:]
O Father of heaven, O Son of God, Redeemer of the world, O Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, have mercy upon me, most wretched caitiff and miserable sinner. I have offended both against heaven and earth more than my tongue can express. Whither, then, may I go, or whither shall I flee? To heaven I may be ashamed to lift up mine eyes, and in earth I find no place of refuge or succor. To Thee, therefore, O Lord, do I run; to Thee do I humble myself, saying, O Lord my God, my sins be great, but yet have mercy upon me for Thy great mercy. The great mystery that God became man was not wrought for little or few offenses. Thou didst not give Thy Son, O heavenly Father, unto death for small sins only, but for all the greatest sins of the world, so that the sinner return to Thee with his whole heart, as I do at this present. Wherefore have mercy on me, O God, whose property is always to have mercy; have mercy upon me, O Lord, for Thy great mercy. I crave nothing for mine own merits, but for Thy names sake, that it may be hallowed thereby, and for Thy dear Son Jesus Christs sake. And now, O Father of Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
[After repeating the Lords Prayer, Cranmer continued.] Every man, good people, desireth at the time of his death to give some good exhortation, that others may remember the same before their death, and be the better thereby; so I beseech God grant me grace that I may speak something at this, my departing, whereby God may be glorified and you edified.
First, it is a heavy cause to see that so many folk so much dote upon the love of this false world, and be so careful for it, that of the love of God, or the world to come, they seem to care very little or nothing. Therefore, this shall be my first exhortation: That you set not your minds overmuch upon this deceitful world, but upon God, and upon the world to come, and to learn to know what this lesson meaneth which St. John teacheth, that the love of this world is hatred against God.
The second exhortation is: That next unto God you obey your king and queen willingly and gladly, without murmuring or grudging; not for fear of them only, but much more for the fear of God, knowing that they be Gods ministers, appointed by God to rule and govern you; and, therefore, whosoever resisteth them, resisteth the ordinance of God.
The third exhortation is: That you love altogether like brethren and sisters. For, alas! pity it is to see what contention and hatred one Christian man beareth to another, not taking each other as brother and sister, but rather as strangers and mortal enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one lesson, To do good unto all men, as much as in you lieth, and to hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural loving brother or sister. For this you may be sure of, that whosoever hateth any person, and goeth about maliciously to hinder or hurt him, surely, and without all doubt, God is not with that man, altho he think himself ever so much in Gods favor.
And now, forasmuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life past and all my life to come, either to live with my master Christ forever in joy, or else to be in pain forever with wicked devils in hell, and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or else hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith how I believe, without any color of dissimulation, for now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have said or written in times past.
First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, etc. And I believe every article of the Catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Savior Jesus Christ, His apostles and prophets, in the New and Old Testament.
And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than anything that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truthwhich now I here renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth2 which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life if it might beand that is, all such bills and papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire, it shall be first burned.
And as for the sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the Bishop of Winchester, which my book teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament, that it shall stand at the last day before the judgment of God, where the Papistical doctrine contrary thereto shall be ashamed to show her face.