Posts Tagged George Marsh martyr
Over the past two – three years, I have been sporadically presenting and producing a documentary on Welsh Bible translator William Salesbury.
Salesbury was born c 1520 in Llansannan, Wales. He was educated at Llanrwst and Oxford and spent time in London where he became involved with the printing press. However, during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553-1558) he returned to Wales and went into hiding. Upon the accession of Elizabeth 1 Salesbury appealed to Parliament to translate and publish the New Testament. He was granted his request and he became the first person to translate the New Testament into the language of Welsh.
Salesbury was a mysterious character, who suffered for the faith and although many aspects of his life remain unknown, it is the legacy of the man which is arguably of the greatest interest. From my perspective, researching ancient Welsh, Latin and English Bibles is always a joy, and travelling hundreds of miles around the beautiful countryside of North Wales, and the great cities of England, in the footsteps of the 16th century Linguistic Reformed Scholar has been an intriguing adventure.
The documentary will be released in the future. Keep posted!
This year 2015 is the anniversary of the births of Scottish reformer John Knox, 17th century Puritan Richard Baxter and of the Protestant Reformed martyr, George Marsh.
Marsh was born in Deane, Bolton in 1515. He was a farmer by trade and married at the age of 25 and upon the death of his wife around 1548-49, he attended Cambridge during the English reformation and became Curate to Lawrence Saunders. He was hunted down during the reign of Mary Tudor and he handed himself in at Smithills hall, Bolton. He stood trial at Lathom House, and was imprisoned at Lancaster Castle and taken to Chester where he would stand trial at the Cathedral and where he was condemned a heretic and burned alive at the stake in Spittle Boughton on April 24th 1555.
As part of this, I think it is vital to the Christian Church that we always remember our own history and that we keep alive the memory of those who suffered for the testimony to the Word of God.
During the reign of Mary Tudor (1553-1558), at least 300 Protestant Christians were executed for their refusal to submit to the doctrines and demands of the Roman Catholic Church. They held the Bible in their hands and could not deny what is written in favour of the doctrines of men.
Today there are many political spin doctors within large Churches who seek to remember the reformation but move on from it. But the truth be told, we can’t. We see the likes of Rick Warren trying to persuade people to unite with Rome and look to what unites us rather than what divides us. But when its all said and done, the divide is made: The Roman Catholic Church has made the division and their views of Protestants are far more extreme than any fundamentalist Protestant could ever be.
In 1995 Pope John 11 apologised for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in burnings at the stake, yet in reality it was not his place to apologise in the 20th century for something that happened in the 16th century. Each man is responsible for his own actions, not for the deeds of others.
My aim is not to create more division between Protestants and Catholics, because as far as I am concerned, the divide is made. Anyone who believes what is written in the Bible cannot have unified fellowship with any Churches who forthright deny the Truth. We can talk together, debate together, reason together, and learn to live without harming anyone, but we cannot unite as one in Faith. On that we must stand strong.
The reformers of the 16th century knew this and they would not conform to false teaching no matter what the cost. George Marsh was one of them and he lost everything for the cause of the Gospel, even his own life.
My appeal to all Churches throughout the world who hold to the Reformed tradition, would you please consider remembering the life of the martyr and indeed all the martyrs at this vital time in our history. It is important to stress that this 500th anniversary will never occur again, so it is the responsibility of the Christian Church to remember our brethren in Christ.
If you have access to a pulpit and your a Deacon, or Dean, Curate, Priest, Elder or Pastor and are willing to tell this story at your local Church, you can find the story of George Marsh in the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. If you do not have a copy, you can find it online or you can find sources at Deane Church’s website or if you wish, you can watch a documentary I produced on Marsh which is available free on YouTube
I will also be giving a sermon on the life of George Marsh on Sunday 19th April 2015 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Manchester. All welcome.
On this day many years ago on 24th April 1555, George Marsh, Martyr was burned at the stake in West Chester for his testimony and faithfulness to the Word of God. This weekend, (Saturday 26th April) Protestants in Chester will gather in the afternoon for a public commemoration to Marsh outside the Town Hall and will walk to the site of his execution.
He was the only Protestant to be Martyred in the North of England and it was on this day so many years ago when this powerful, yet horrific event occurred.
In memory to him and to all the faithful Martyrs of Christ, I add this little tribute with my slightly more modern spelling of the original narrative, of which John Foxe had this to say;
“When the time and day appointed came that he should suffer: the Sheriffs of the City (whose names were Amry & Couper) with their officers and a great number of poor simple Barbers, with rusty Bills & Pole axe’s, went to the Northgate & there took out the said George Marsh, who came with them most humbly & meekly, with a lock upon his feet. And as he came upon the way towards the place of execution, some folks offered him money, & looked that he should have gone with a little purse in his hand (as the manner of felons was, accustomed in that City in times past, at their going to execution) to the end to gather money to give unto a Priest to say masses for them after their death, whereby they might (as they thought) be saved: but Marsh said he would not be troubled with meddling with money, but willed some good man to take the money, if the people were disposed to give any, and to give it unto the prisoners or poor people.
So he went all the way unto his death, with his book in his hand, looking upon the same, and many of the people said: this man goes not unto his death as a thief, or as one that deserves to die.
Now when he came to the place of execution without the City, near unto Spittle boughton, one Cawdrey, being then deputy of Chester, showed Marsh a writing under a great seal, saying that it was a pardon for him if he would recant. Where at Marsh answered, that he would gladly accept the same (and said farther, that he loved the Queen) but for as much as it tended to pluck him from God, he could not receive it upon that condition.
After that, he began to speak to the people showing the cause of his death, and would have exhorted them to stick unto Christ. Whereupon one of the Sheriffs said: George Marsh, we must have no sermonizing now. To whom he said, “Master, I cry you mercy” and so kneeling down made his Prayers, and then put of his clothes unto his shirt, and then was he chained unto the post, having a number of sticks under him, and a thing made like a firkin, with pitch and tar in the same over his head: and by reason that the fire was unskillfully made, and that the wind did drive the flame to and fro, he suffered great extremity in his death, which not withstanding he abode very patiently.
Wherein this in him is to be noted, that when as he had been a long time tormented in the fire without moving, having his flesh so broiled and puffed up that they which stood before him could not see the chain wherewith he was fastened, and therefore supposed no less but he had been dead, not withstanding suddenly he spread abroad his arms, saying “father of heaven have mercy upon me, and so yielded his spirit into the hands of the Lord.
Upon this, many of the people said that he was a Martyr, and died marvelously patiently and godly. Which thing caused the Bishop shortly after to make a Sermon in the Cathedral Church, and therein affirmed, that the said Marsh was an heretic, burnt like an heretic, and was a firebrand in hell.
In recompense of this his good and charitable Sermon, within short time after, the just judgement of GOD appeared upon the said Bishop: recompensing him in such wise, that not long after he turned up his heels and died.
Upon what cause his death was, I have not here precisely to pronounce, because the rumour and voice of the people is not always to be followed. Not withstanding such a report went in all men’s mouths, that he was burned of an harlot. Whereupon whether he died or no, I am not certain, neither dare lean too much upon public speech. Albeit this is certain, that when he was after ward searched being dead, by some of his secret friends & certain Aldermen for stopping the rumour of the people, this maidenly Priest and Bishop was found not to be free from certain appearance, which declared but small virginity in him, and that the rumour was not raised up altogether upon naught, among the people. But of this I will stay, & proceed no farther, not because more can not be said, but because I will not be so uncharitable in defacing these men, as they are cruel in condemning Gods servants to death.”
John Foxe. Acts and Monuments (1576)
George Marsh. 1515-1555. In Memoriam.
George Marsh, the Protestant Marty was burned alive at the stake in West Chester on April 24th 1555.
His story is told in ‘Acts and Monuments’ known as ‘The Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ by John Foxe.
He was born in 1515 in Deane, Bolton and lived his early life upon a farm and married around 1540 at the age of 25. He and his wife had several children and upon her death around 1548-49, Marsh secured his children with their grandparents (a common practice in those days) and left Lancashire and went to Cambridge. There he studied the Bible and Reformed doctrine and soon became a Curate to Laurence Saunders. He is also said to have become employed by King Edward V1.
In 1553 King Edward V1 died and Mary 1 came to the throne. She imposed Roman Catholicism upon England and many Protestants were burned alive at the stake during her reign. Marsh planned to leave England for Germany and he returned to Lancashire.
Between January – February 1554 Marsh preached at the Parishes of Eccles, Bury, Bolton and Deane.
On 12th Marsh 1554, Master Barton of Smithills hall sent his servants to find George Marsh by order of the Earl of Derby. They search for him around Deane and Bolton. The following day, Marsh surrendered willingly at Smithills Hall and he was sent to Lathom House, near Ormskirk, where he stood trial accused of heresy before the 3rd Earl of Derby. Marsh was imprisoned at Lathom and was later sent to Lancaster Castle where he was imprisoned for around 8 months.
Around November/December 1554 he was taken to Chester with the Bishop of Chester Dr George Cotes and there he stood trial a number of times and was imprisoned at the Northgate. He was condemned a heretic and to be burned alive at the stake on 24th April 1555.
Marsh never recanted his faith in Jesus Christ as head of the Church, and the Word of God as the rule of Faith and practice. He would not deny justification by Faith alone or the Reformed/Biblical position concerning the Eucharist.
He died because he was loyal to the God of the Bible and His revealed Word.
A true man of Faith. A true Christian. And it was on this day so many years ago that his trial began.