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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
J. M. Cramp,
Taken from the Book, Baptist History, 1868
A royal commission was issued by Edward VI, empowering thirty-one persons therein names, Cranmer at the head and Latimer as one of its members, to proceed against all heretics and contemnors of the Book of Common Prayer.
The "wicked opinions" of the Baptists are specifically mentioned, and the commissioners, or rather, inquisitors, for such they were directed, in case the persons accused should not renounce their errors, to deliver them up to the secular power, that is, to death.
Joan Boucher, or "Joan of Kent," as she was sometimes called, was the first victim. She was a Christian lady, well known at court, and very zealous in her endeavors to introduce Christian truth among its inmates.
"She was at first a great disperser of Tyndale’s New Testaments, translated by him into English, and printed at Colen [Cologne], and was a great reader of Scripture herself; which books she also dispersed in the court, and so became known to certain women of quality, and was more particularly acquainted with Mrs. Anne Ascue [Anne Askew, cruelly tortured, and afterward burned alive, in the year 1546]. She used, for the more secrecy, to tie the books in strings under her apparel, and so passed with them into court."
But she maintained the opinion held by many of the foreign Baptists, that the Redeemer, though born of the Virgin Mary, and truly man, did not take flesh of the substance of her body. For this she was condemned to die. A year elapsed between the trial and the execution, during which many efforts were employed, but in vain, to convince her of her error.
Archbishop Cranmer, Bishop Ridley, and others, visited her frequently for that purpose. It was at length determined to burn her. It is said that the young king hesitated long, and would not have consented that the warrant should be issued had it not been for the persuasion of Cranmer. He wept as he gave his consent, and told the primate that he must answer for it at the bar of God, if it should prove to be a wrongful deed.
The archbishop did not relent. The final sentence bears his name and that of Latimer. On the second of May, 1550, Joan Boucher was burned in Smithfield. Bishop Story preached on the occasion, and, as Strype says, "tried to convert her;" but his misrepresentations and calumnies were so gross that she told him he lied like a rogue, and bade him go and read the Scriptures. It was doubtless needful advice.
John Rogers, who was the first martyr in Mary's reign, approved this execution. When someone remonstrated with him on the subject, and particularly urged the cruelty of the mode of death, he replied that "burning alive was no cruel death, but easy enough."
Archdeacon Philpot, in his sixth examination before the queen's commissioners, Nov. 6, 1555, six weeks before his own martyrdom, said, "As for Joan of Kent, she was a vain woman (I knew her well), and a heretic indeed, well worthy to be burnt."
It is distressing to record such utterances.