FOLLOW ME, HE CALLS
God's Friday is April 22nd, 2011. While we remember the sacrificial offering of our Lord, it is my own spiritual reverie to think about the millions of Christian martyrs, who have died since, because they believed in Him and in His Cross. They seemed to know the path of Liberation which He had demonstrated. Today, in America, we are not killed but merely despised and scorned. We tend to forget that for so many centuries death was the penalty for following Him. What did Jesus mean when He said, "Follow Me" ?
Below, I want to honor a few of those who knew what it meant to follow Him. They knew that He was calling them to a place which He said He was going to prepare for them "that where I am, there you may be also."
Source material for the following snippets is FOXE’S BOOK OF MARTYRS, by John Foxe (1516 - 1587),
published 2000 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee.
This is the story which I always think of first of when I think of Martyrs, the story of a lady, Agnes Bongeor, who was put into prison in England in 1555, along with many others, to be burned at stakes because they were Protestant. England was then under the rule of Bloody Mary (1555 to 1558), a Roman Catholic, and she was killing vast numbers of Protestants who would not turn Catholic. One day the jailers came to the prison and called out several names of Agnes’ companions, then leading them out to the stakes, but Agnes’ name was not called. As John Foxe tells the story (he knew many of these people personally) he writes: "When Agnes Bongeor saw herself separated from her prison-fellows, what piteous moan that good woman made, how bitterly she wept, what strange thoughts came into her mind, how naked and desolate she esteemed herself, and into what plunge of despair and care her poor soul was brought, it was piteous and wonderful to see; which all came because she went not with them to give her life in defence of her Christ; for of all things in the world, life was least looked for at her hands.
For that morning in which she was kept back from burning, had she put on a smock, that she had prepared only for that purpose. And also having a child, a little young infant sucking on her, whom she kept with her tenderly all the time that she was in prison, against that day likewise did she send away to another nurse, and prepared herself presently to give herself for the testimony of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. So little did she look for life, and so greatly did God’s gifts work in her above nature, that death seemed a great deal better welcome than life. After which, she began a little to stay herself, and gave her whole exercise to reading and prayer, wherein she found no little comfort.
In a short time came a writ from London for the burning, which according to the effect thereof, was executed." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 132)
Mrs. Prest lived in Cornwall, England; her husband and children were Catholic and badgered her to the point of driving her away. She was brought before the Bishop and Council to be questioned. When asked what church she claimed, she answered, "Not your popish Church, full of idols and abominations, but where two or three are gathered together in the name of God, to that Church will I go as long as I live." The Bishop said, "Well, let this mad woman be put down to prison until we send for her husband." Mrs. Prest answered, "No, I have but one husband, who is here already in this city, and in prison with me, from whom I will never depart." She was then released, but she spoke so boldly against the Catholic false religion that she was later imprisoned. She was illiterate but her memory was so good that she could quote scripture by chapter and verse. After many attempts to make her a Catholic, she was condemned. She was then exhorted to go home and stay silent about church matters because she was poor and illiterate. She said to them, "True, though I am not learned, I am content to be a witness of Christ’s death, and I pray you make no longer delay with me, for my heart is fixed, and I will never say otherwise, nor turn to your superstitious doing." Mrs. Prest was short and thick-set and about 54 years old, but her countenance was cheerful and lively, as if she prepared for her day of marriage with the Lamb. When she was offered money, she rejected it "because I am going to a city where money bears no mastery, and while I am here God has promised to feed me."
"When sentence was read, condemning her to the flames, she lifted up her voice and praised God, adding, ‘This day have I found that which I have long sought.’ When they tempted her to recant, ‘That will I not (said she) God forbid that I should lose the life eternal, for this carnal and short life. I will never turn from my heavenly husband to my earthly husband; from the fellowship of angels to mortal children, and if my husband and children be faithful, then am I theirs. God is my father, God is my mother, God is my sister, my brother, my kinsman, God is my friend, most faithful.’
"Being delivered to the sheriff, she was led by the officer to the place of execution, outside the walls of Exeter, called Sothenhey, where again the superstituios priests assaulted her. While they were tying her to the stake, she continued earnestly to exclaim ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Patiently enduring the devouring conflagration, she was consumed to ashes, and thus ended a life which in unshaken fidelity to the cause of Christ, was not surpassed by that of any preceding martyr." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 154ff)
Cicely Ormes was 22 years old and wife of Edmund Ormes in Norwich, England. At the deaths of a couple friends, "she said she would pledge them of the same cup they drank of. For those words she was brought to the chancellor who would have discharged her upon promising to go to church, and to keep her belief to herself. As she would not consent to this, the chancellor urged that he had shown more lenity to her than any other person, and was unwilling to condemn her, because she was a ignorant foolish woman; to this she replied, (perhaps with more shrewdness than he expected), that however great his desire might be to spare her sinful flesh, it could not equal her inclination to surrender it up in so great a quarrel. The chancellor then pronounced the fiery sentence, and September 23, 1557, she was brought to the stake, at eight o’clock in the morning.
After declaring her faith to the people, she laid her hand on the stake, and said, ‘Welcome, thou cross of Christ." Her hand was sooted in doing this, )for it was the same stake at which Miller and Cooper were burnt), and she at first wiped it; but directly after again welcomed and embraced it as the ‘sweet cross of Christ.’ After the tormentors had kindled the fire, she said, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Savior.’ Then crossing her hands upon her breast, and looking upwards with utmost serenity, she stood the fiery furnace. Her hands continued gradually to rise until the sinews were dried, and then they fell. She uttered no sigh of pain, but yielded her life, an emblem of that celestial paradise in which is the presence of God, blessed forever." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, pg. 145)
EARLY MARTYRS WHO FOLLOWED HIM:
The disciple, James, brother of St. John, was beheaded in 44ad.
The disciple, Philip was scourged and crucified in 52ad.
The disciple, Matthew, died under a battle axe about 60ad.
Mark, author of the Gospel and secretary to St. Peter was dragged thru streets of Alexandria, thrown into a dungeon for the night; his body was burned the next day.
James at 94, Jesus’ brother, was beaten and stoned after which they dashed out his brains with a club.
The disciple, Andrew, St. Peter’s brother, was crucified on an X shaped cross, tied with cords to make a slow and torturous death over two days. Andrew had told his accusers that he would not have preached the glory of the cross if he feared to die upon it; he told them he coveted the cross.
The disciple, Peter, brother of Andrew, was scourged and then crucified upside down at Peter’s request because he felt he didn’t deserve to die the same way as his Lord.
St. Paul was beheaded, at the order of Nero, on the same day that Peter was crucified, 72ad.
The disciple, Thaddaeus, was crucified 72ad.
St. Thomas, disciple, was thrust through with a spear.
St. Luke, author of Gospel and book of Acts, was hanged on an olive tree.
The apostle, Simon, was crucified 74ad.
St. John, author of Gospel and Revelation, died at nearly 100, the only disciple to escape violent death.
Timothy, disciple of St. Paul, Bishop of Ephesus, was beat to death with clubs.
Ignatius, disciple of St. John, author of the seven Letters of Ignatius, was sent to Rome because he professed Christ, where he was killed by lions in the Colosseum. He wrote ahead to the Rome Christians exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom lest they should deprive him of that for which he most longed and hoped. He wrote, "Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus." When confronting the lions in the arena, he said, "I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 14)
Polycarp, another disciple of St. John, and subject of the famous writing, MARTYRDOM OF POLYCARP, was burned at a stake in the Marketplace but the fire would not touch him, so the executioner pierced him with a sword. Prior to the murder, the proconsul offered to release him if he would reproach Christ. Polycarp answered him, "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?"
Lady Jane Grey was a cousin to King Edward VI who died in 1553, at 16 yrs age after being king for six years. Edward willed his throne to his cousin, Jane Grey who was 17 years age. She had not sought the crown but was persuaded by others to accept the appointment. She was Queen of England for only five days when Mary usurped the throne. Mary was daughter of Henry VIII and Catharine of Aragon (Roman Catholic of Spain). Mary was half-sister to Elizabeth whose mother was Anne Boleyn. This Queen Mary became known as Bloody Mary because she vowed to extirpate and burn every Protestant. Mary ordered the execution of Jane Grey. On the scaffold, this young girl, Jane Grey, spoke to the spectators,
"I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness that I die a good Christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess that when I did know the Word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God, that of His goodness He hath thus given me a time and a respite to repent. And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers." And then kneeling down, she turned to Feckenham, saying, "May I say this Psalm?" and he said, "Yea." Then she said the Psalm of Miserere mei Deus, in English , in a most devout manner throughout to the end, and then she stood up, and gave her maid, Mrs. Ellen, her gloves and handkerchief, and her book to Mr. Bruges; and then she untied her gown, and the executioner pressed upon her to help her off with it: but she, desiring him to let her alone, turned towards her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therewith, and also with her frowes, paaft, and neckerchief, giving to her a fair handkerchief to put about her eyes.
Then the executioner kneeled down, and asked her forgiveness, whom she forgave most willingly. Then he desired her to stand upon the straw, which doing, she saw the block. Then she said, 'I pray you, despatch me quickly.' Then she kneeled down, saying, 'Will you take it off before I lay me down?' And the executioner said, 'No, madam.' Then she tied a handkerchief about her eyes, and feeling for the block, she said, 'What shall I do? Where is it? Where is it?' One of the standers-by guiding her therunto, she laid her head upon the block, and then stretched forth her body, and said, 'Lord into Thy hands I commend my spirit;' and so finished her life, in the year of our Lord 1554, the twelfth day of February, about the seventeenth year of her age." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p.99)
William Hunter was a nineteen year old Protestant who declined to receive communion at Mass; he was brought before Bishop Bonner who assured him that the problem would be satisfactorily solved if William would merely receive communion and do confession. William refused, so was placed in stocks for two days and nights, then sent to prison for nine months. The bishop again asked him to recant, but he would not, so was sentenced to be burned. He was taken to Brentwood for execution. "On coming to the stake, he knelt down and read the Fifty-first Psalm, until he came to these words, 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.' Steadfast in refusing the queen's pardon, if he would become an apostate, at length one Richard Ponde, a bailiff, came, and made the chain fast about him.
"William now cast his psalter into his brother's hand, who said, 'William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death.' 'Behold,' answered William, 'I am not afraid.' Then he lifted up his hands to heaven and said, 'Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit,' and casting down his head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p.104)
Thomas Haukes was condemned with six others on February 9, 1555. He was educated, handsome, well-mannered, a gentleman, and a sincere Christian. Prior to his burnings, his friends asked him to signal from the flames whether the pains of burning were such that a man can endure it.
"This he promised to do; it was agreed that if the rage of the pain might be suffered, then he should lift up his hands above his head towards heaven, before he gave up the ghost.. . . the fire was kindled."
"When he had continued long in it, and his speech was taken away by violence of the flame, his skin drawn together, and his fingers consumed with the fire, so that it was thought that he was gone, suddenly and contrary to all expectation, this good man being mindful of his promise, reached up his hands burning in flames over his head to the living God, and with great rejoicings as it seemed, struch, or clapped them three times together." That was June 10, 1555. (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 111)
Dr. Ridley died October 17, 1555 at Oxford. He was an educator and head of Pembroke College. His sermons attracted large numbers. "Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keepers wife) weep, 'Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.' . . . When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: 'Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.' . . .A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley's feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: 'Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust will never be put out."
"When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, 'Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.' Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, 'O Father of heaven, receive my soul!' received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p. 120)
John Lomas, Agnes Snoth, Anne Wright, Joan Sole, and Joan Catmer were all "burnt at two stakes in one fire, singing hosannahs to the glorified Savior, until the breath of life was extinct. Sir John Norton, who was present, wept bitterly at their unmerited sufferings." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p.122)
Dr. Thomas Cranmer was the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry VIII. Cranmer married King Henry to Anne Boleyn, stood godfather to Elizabeth, and he divorced the king from Catharine of Aragon, Henry's Catholic wife from Spain. Continuously harassed by Catholic authorities like Gardiner, Cranmer was recognized by King Henry as a faithful friend. Henry's successor, Edward continued Cranmer in his same functions. Edward's death in 1553 left him exposed to Catholic resentment and Bloody Mary who was forever angry at the divorce of her mother from King Henry, a divorce facilitated by Cranmer. He was charged with treason and imprisoned. Forced to sign papers, first written in general terms, but finally more specific, denouncing the Protestant movement, the papists got his recantation. The Queen's revenge was not satisfied and intrigues against Cranmer continued. Bloody Mary ordered that a sermon be prepared for Cranmer to preach before a large gathering which would effectively seal the case against him. He preached a sermon, repented of his sins before God, and concluded with a statement of his own, as follows: "And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be; and that is, all such bills or 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 first be burned.
And as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine."
Dr. Thomas Cranmer was then burned at a stake, where he reached his right hand forward into the fire and it was burned to a crisp before the rest of his body was injured; he repeatedly cried, "This unworthy right hand," and "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, p.123)
From our own viewpoint in our present lives of comfort, it is terrifying to contemplate the reality of such tortures and deaths which so many millions of white race Christians have suffered. We know that many thousands suffered cruel deaths during the first three centuries in the Roman Empire by despot rulers who were powerfully influenced by the Edomite Jews who lived in Rome and worked their money-changing talents along with instigating persecution of Christians. Nero married a jewess named Poppaea. Then, after Constantine made Christianity the state-favored religion, Edomite Jews joined the new movement and directed the course of its development into a hierarchical system of priests and popes. Many Edomites have been popes, still to this day.
One cannot understand our Christian history unless one knows the story of Esau and Jacob, whose names became Edom and Israel. While God selected Jacob's progeny of Israelites for His own family, Edomites were their enemy who lusted to kill God's own. It was Edomites who migrated into Judea in 4th century BC after being purged from Edom by the Nabateans. It was Edomites who then took over Judea, Jerusalem, and the Temple. Edomite Herods became kings of Judea. It was Edomites to whom Jesus spoke in John 8:44, telling them that God is not their father but they are of the devil and their natural instincts are lying and murder. It was Edomites who continued to be called Judeans (Jews) after the true Israelites had taken a new name of Christians. It was Edomite Jews who got purged from Jerusalem in 70ad, and then again in 132ad, then migrated to Spain as Sephardim and to eastern Europe as Khazars. Edomite Jews, in control of the Roman Catholic Church, used the Dark Age centuries of Inquisitions to murder countless millions of Israelite Christians throughout Europe, and for a few years in England under their Bloody Mary. It was Edomite Jews who became the bankers of Europe in early 1800's, and who then put Lincoln in office to conquer the American South as plunder. Edomite Jews organized as Zionists in 1897, then to conquer Russia in their Bolshevik Revolution which became WWI. The same Bolshevik Jews murdered more than fifty million white race Russian Christians during the Stalin reign of Soviet terror. The same race of Jews caused WWII (by their own admission) and all wars since. It is Edomite Jews who use the Afghanistan opium to work the world-wide drug business, thereby funding their Illuminati who control the entire world through their secret societies and their intelligence agencies (CIA, MI5, Mossad, etc). It is Edomite Jews who own the world banking industry along with diamonds and precious metals. It is these same people who have owned and directed every American president for many generations, and who fill most U.S. Cabinet posts, and who put politicians in office, and who are now establishing a One World Government. Their motto is "By Deception We Wage War." Lying is their great talent which makes them the greatest movie actors. Deception is their tactic by which they are always doing the opposite from what the people are told by their news media, and it is their tactic to always work from behind the scenes through puppets whom they own.
When you understand that it is God's Design to use one wicked race against His own children for the purpose of strengthening us, disciplining us, and preparing us to inherit His kingdom, then you will see that Esau's family has simply been God's tool. While the Edomite Jews act from their natural instinct, God's family of Israel is like a garden being weeded, pruned, culled, hardened-off, thinned-out, and reduced to the few who will be known as Sons of God. The wars which the Jews make against us serve God's purpose by culling the weak and by Liberating those special ones whose destiny is to sit at His right hand. Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven, God draws His chosen ones to Himself by means of Liberating wars and persecutions. We might even consider the Jews to be angels of death whom God sends to free us from this world bondage.
It was Edomite Jews of the Jerusalem Temple who ordered the death of Jesus, granting Him a Liberation to which He went willingly, knowing that it would be His victory and verily, His reward.
Now, here is the kicker. God is now going to permit our mortal enemy of Edomite Jewry to overwhelm and destroy us, His own true Israelite family in order to bring home the last flowers of His great Bouquet. Our prison door is about to be opened and our jailers are about to Liberate us, perhaps with guns or bombs. For this year of 2011, we might meditate about the reality of these holy days (Jesus' death and resurrection) as they become meaningful to each one of us, personally.
Alas, the dilemma is that while we want to go to heaven, we fear the PAIN. Yes, we REALLY fear the pain! We can but wonder, in awe, how those martyrs were able to confront their deaths so willingly. In the article above, I have selected but a few examples of martyrdoms from the book, FOXE'S BOOK OF MARTYRS. I did not tell you of the ones who died from being stretched to death on the rack, or who had the skin flailed from their bodies with sticks, or who had the tongue pierced with a stick so that it could be pulled from the head, and many more horrific tortures. Even knowing about such horrors, Christians still refused to deny their Lord. If you read the book, you will wonder at something quite amazing, that something miraculous seems to happen to those who joyously approach their liberations; the pain does not seem so intolerable; some sang hymns until the fire reached their mouths, some praised God loudly. I can only conclude that God's angels intervened; what other explanation could there be?
The body of Christ has certainly been tortured without pause for many centuries. The question might come to us of why a loving God would permit such things to happen to His own beloved children. The answer is that God has made our choice difficult, intentionally. If it was easy to follow Jesus and obtain Heaven, even the weak and cowardly and ignorant and defective ones could do it. But, God is like a breeder of champions who trains and tests his precious ones until only the best survive. All the rest get culled. God's program is like that of the military Special Ops Forces, so difficult that only a few get selected from the thousands who join. What we can happily conclude is that quite a few of our people DID pass the test over many centuries and did get selected as His chosen. Do you know that the Greek word "martyr" means "witness?" So many martyrs willingly and even joyously welcomed their opportunities to follow their Lord. They confronted pain which might be terrible, but they knew it would be relatively brief. They knew that was a small price to pay. They knew that their willingness and eagerness to follow Jesus made all the difference. They had just obtained Bibles in their own language so that they could learn the truth for themselves. So, they learned these all-important truths which the priests had hidden, a few of which are at the top of my homepage of this website, at http://divinepageant.com/ Here is a copy of them.
Jesus said, "If anyone desires to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life on account of Me will find it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?" (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus said, "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for life eternal. Anyone who serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there will My servant be." (John 12:25)
Jesus said, "Go sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21)
Jesus said, take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor purse nor bread nor money." (Luke 9:3)
Jesus' brother, James, said, "Do you know that friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever wants to be a friend of the world has made himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)
FOLLOW ME, HE CALLS. Our Christ family has been following Him since He first made that call, and now we are at the end of this age of the Fish, during which the Great Fisherman has caught and collected most of His own. Just a few more fish to bring home and then we start a new kingdom of Heaven where the evil race will not have an advantage over us, a kingdom which has been prepared for those who are willing to FOLLOW Him, eagerly, joyously, willingly, devotedly. He came to tell us the Truth, to show us the Way, to offer Life in Heaven, and to welcome us unto Himself. We have all the proof we need in order to help us to FOLLOW Him when the opportunity comes to each of us. Praise God for His love and His assistance from this hellish prison to His Palace, our true Home.
by Roger Ray Hathaway, April 6, 2011 Return to Index