Historical records matching John Bradford, Martyr
About John Bradford, Martyr
from John Bradford (1510 – 1555) Crich Baptist Church – Derbyshire, UK
On the morning of July 15th 1555 at 9am, two men were led to their execution at London’s Smithfield in the reign of “bloody Queen Mary”. They were condemned to be burnt alive as heretics. One was a young man of 19 called John Leaf, the other was about 45 years old and his name was John Bradford.
Among Bradford’s final words at the stake were these “O England, England, repent!” Turning to the young man who was to suffer with him he said, “Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a happy supper with the Lord tonight”. Then, embracing the wood of his execution, he repeated our Saviour’s words, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads to life and few there be that find it”. “Thus”, says Foxe in his Book of Martyrs, “like two lambs, they both ended their mortal lives … being void of all fear”.
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations tells us that it was Bradford who originated the saying “There but for the grace of God go I.” Seeing a group of criminals led out to their execution he declared,
- "But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”
John Bradford was born at Manchester about the year 1510. He received a good education and showed considerable ability in Latin and arithmetic. He put his accounting proficiency to good use when, later in life, he managed the financial affairs of a certain Sir John Harrington before training as a law student at the Temple in London in the days of the Protestant king, Edward VI. Precisely when Bradford was converted to Christ we do not know. But we do know that when God touched his heart, his former love of rings, chains and jewellery gave place to a fervent devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His cause on earth. The transformation was so great that he gave up his study of law at the Temple and went to the University of Cambridge in 1548, to give himself entirely to the study of the Scriptures.
Bradford took Scripture earnestly to heart, as may be seen from his response to a sermon preached in London before young king Edward by the well-known Reformer, Hugh Latimer. When Bradford heard that God required the restitution of dishonest gain, he was profoundly troubled about a fraud respecting money owed to the king by Sir John Harrington whom he had served. Bradford hadn’t benefited from the fraud, but he had concealed it. Bradford’s spiritual convictions were such that he felt compelled to reveal the matter, and so forced Sir John to make restitution to the king!
Bradford is described as a ruddy, tall and slender man with an auburn beard. He slept four hours in the night, ate sparingly, and never felt an hour well spent unless he had done some good by writing, study, or instructing others. Indeed, he would reprove sin in such a sweet way, that those reproved knew he only did it for their good in order to draw them to God.