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In this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Stephen Nichols tells the story of the dishonest clerk who became a martyr.

Our study of the three British martyrs concludes with a look at Chaplain Bradford. John Bradford was born in Manchester, England, around 1510. He was headed for a career as a clerk and he did very well. In fact, he served as a clerk for Henry VIII and also served in the Inner Temple, a professional association for barristers in England. There he also studied law and heard the preaching of the Reformers. He was convicted by this preaching. In fact, he realized that he was not always an honest clerk, and upon hearing the gospel, he sought, as Bishop Hugh Latimer said, “the restitution of stolen goods.” So, we have a true testimony to his repentance.

He left the Inner Temple and went to pursue an education at Cambridge. He wanted to become a minister of God’s Word, and he did. In 1551, Nicholas Ridley, who was the bishop of London, called Bradford to join him in London, where he became part of a company of six royal chaplains. So, we can rightly call him Chaplain Bradford. He had this post for two years.

Of course, as we’ve seen in the lives of our two previous martyrs, in 1553, Edward VI died and Mary I came to the throne. And like all of those Reformers and all of those bishops and pastors, John Bradford too was sent to the Tower of London. During his early imprisonment, he shared a cell with Thomas Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. They encouraged on another as they suffered in their imprisonment. They were held simply to give them time to rethink their position and recant.

Toward the end of his imprisonment, Bradford was taken out of their cell and was imprisoned very briefly with Dr. Rowland Taylor. Bradford said he was overjoyed to be with Taylor and called him “an angel of God.”

On January 31, 1555, Bradford was condemned as a heretic. He was given an opportunity to recant, and he refused. Unlike some of the other martyrs, he was held there for many months. In fact, it was not until July that Chaplain Bradford was executed. The idea was again to give him time, in the hope that he would rethink his position, see all of the other martyrdoms, and recant. The hope was that recantations would then help to sink the Reformation among the common people.

martyr, Chaplain John Bradford

Image: The Burning of Chaplain John Bradford, from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

But Chaplain Bradford would not recant. So, on July 1, 1555, he was led to his martyrdom. He was burned at the stake, and John Foxe records for us that he cried out, “O England, England, repent you of your sins, repent you of your sins! Beware of idolatry, beware of false antichrists: take heed that they do not deceive you.” One of Bradford’s biographers has a great line; he says of Bradford that “he lived a long life in a short period of time.”

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How do we relate the sin of Adam to humanity? Why are we guilty for something we did not do? How is this just? Are children born with original guilt and corruption, or does Scripture teach that there is an age of accountability? What did Augustine, Pelagius, or Arminius believe about this important question? On this program the hosts will discuss various perspectives on the effects of the Fall that have arisen throughout the history of the church as they continue to unpack the implications of Original Sin. Join us for the latest episode of the White Horse Inn.Adam's Fall or Original Sin Affects Us Today

“We don’t have trouble with the fact that someone else can carry our sins away. We don’t have trouble saying that someone fulfilled the law in our place and someone imputed his righteousness to us. What we have trouble with is that someone’s sin was imputed to us. But you can’t have one without the other. They’re two sides of the same coin. If you don’t like this side, you’re going to have to throw out the whole coin.” – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Pelagianism”

The term designates both the teachings of Pelagius, a fourth-century Christian monk, and any teaching that minimizes the role of divine grace in salvation. It was Pelagius’ views on the Christian life, his moral rigorism, his high regard for the law, and his emphasis on discipline and the human will that laid the foundation for the controversy that gave birth to what has come to be known as Pelagianism. Pelagius was offended when he read in Augustine’s Confessions that humans must necessarily and inevitably sin, even after baptism. Augustine’s phrase “Give what you command and command what you will” seem to him to undermine the moral law and the quest for perfection, because it placed responsibility for righteousness on God rather than on the human will. Pelagius did not, as is often thought, deny the necessity of grace. Grace was to be understood as the revelation of God’s purposes and will, the wisdom by which humans are stirred to seek a life of righteousness…. Pelagius saw no opposition between the laws of the old covenant and the gospel. He saw grace as a precept and example, a view that led him to overestimate human capability and thus to invite criticism. (Adapted from The Encyclopedia of Religion, s.v. “Pelagianism.”)

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In this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Stephen Nichols introduces us to the Cambridge-educated bishop who was burned at the stake in 1555.

Our continuing study of the three British martyrs leads us now to Bishop Hooper. John Hooper was born in 1495 in Somerset, England. He went on to study at the University of Cambridge and received his bachelor’s degree. Then we are not sure what happened to him. He probably came under the influence of the Reformation in Germany and for his own sake stayed off the radar. We know he showed up at Oxford and in 1539, after Henry VIII signed the Act of Supremacy in 1534, which established the Church of England.

Even in those early years of the English Reformation, Henry was not entirely friendly with Reformers on the Continent, and of course, Bishop Hooper was very friendly with Reformers on the Continent. And he found himself in conflict with the king. So, he left England and headed to France. He remained there with the Huguenots and studied alongside them. We also know that he made his way to Switzerland and befriended Heinrich Bullinger, who succeeded Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and who was very much an influence on Bishop Hooper.

When Edward VI ascended to the throne, Hooper left Switzerland and returned to his beloved England. He immediately went after those bishops who were not thoroughly committed to the Reformation and chased them out of their pulpits. He was bishop of Gloucester and then bishop of Worcester two years later. And then, Edward VI died.

Martyrdom of Bishop John Hooper

The Burning of Master Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

In 1553, Mary I came to the throne, and like many Reformed figures who flourished under Edward, Bishop Hooper was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was there from 1553 until 1555. In January 1555, he was called out before the council and given the opportunity to recant of his teachings. If he did so, he would be released and restored to his position. He refused. This happened almost daily, as it did for so many of the martyrs, and it happened for Hooper on many occasions that he was brought before the council and given an opportunity to recant. Every time, he refused to do so.

Finally, on February 9, he was led out and taken to the place of his execution and given one last opportunity to recant. He again refused, and on February 9, 1555, Bishop Hooper was burned at the stake.

John Foxe records the events in his famous Book of Martyrs. He tells us that when Hooper was led before his executioners, he asked the people to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him and to pray for him, which they did. Foxe records that there was much crying while he was suffering. Foxe also records that he went up to the stake and an iron hoop was placed around his chest and the stake while he was burning. And a similar hoop was offered to hold his neck and his legs and he refused them. And this man who had studied at Cambridge, who had studied with the Huguenots in France, who had studied in Zurich under Bullinger, who had faithfully proclaimed the gospel from his pulpit and from his post as bishop, this man suffered a great deal as he was burned at the stake. And he took his place not only among the martyrs in Britain but also among the martyrs through the centuries who have faithfully borne witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Why is there so much evil and corruption in the world? Why do children need to be taught to behave, whereas disobedience and naughtiness come rather naturally? What exactly is sin, where does it come from, and how does it relate to our view of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ?

While this topic of sin is no longer fashionable to voice, the world needs to understand its plight before it comes to believe in the wonders of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. On this program the hosts will discuss these questions and more as they begin a new four-part series on the doctrine of Original Sin on the White Horse Inn.

Original Sin“Sin is rebellion against God. If we start talking about sin as ‘I’m not fulfilling my potential or something like that,’ we’re already starting off wrong. We need to ask how sin relates to God if sin is rebellion against God. There’s ways that the Bible has talked about this; sin is about missing the mark of God’s law.

“God is holy and the way that the Bible depicts sin is there’s guilt that comes with our rebellion, there’s corruption that comes with that, but it also talks about sin as folly. So talking about original sin actually helps describe to us our present reality.” – Justin Holcomb

Term to Learn:

Original Sin

6.2 Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

6.3 They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

6.4 From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. (1689 London Baptist Confession, chap. 6, Sections 2–4)

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Who were the 16th-century Calvinist missionaries of Brazil? In this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Stephen Nichols tells the fascinating history of the Guanabara Confession of Faith.

The Summer Olympics were just held in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But I want to take us back to Rio in 1558. There is a slight backstory here, so let’s pick it up. In 1555, a French colony was established in what is now Rio de Janeiro. Then it was simply known as the Guanabara Bay. That original French colony had a number of Huguenots and other Frenchmen committed to the Reformation. The colony was originally open to them, but then it became entrenched in Roman Catholicism and expelled the Huguenots.

Guanabara Confession of Faith

Image: The Founding of Rio de Janeiro by Halley Pacheco Oliveira

Fifteen people boarded a ship to return to France. Shortly after the ship pushed off the Brazilian coast, five of the fifteen took a small boat, lowered it over the ship’s edge, and rowed their way back to the shores of Brazil. They were intent on being missionaries. Now, these were not clergy. They were skilled craftsmen and laymen. They were not trained. They had sat in churches and had received solid teaching from the Reformers and especially from John Calvin’s students. Eventually, four of them were arrested by the leaders of the colony in Guanabara. They were put into prison and were required to write out a confession of their faith. This was not simply a confession of faith—it would serve to be their death warrant.

The four men who wrote the confession were Jean du Bourdel, Matthieu Verneuil, Pierre Bourdon, and André la Fon. They prefaced it with this statement:

“According to the doctrine of St. Peter, the apostle, in his first epistle, all Christians must always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them (I Peter 3:15), and to do this in all gentleness and kindness.”

And that is exactly what they proceeded to do. They gave a reason for their hope.

They write, in article eleven of their confession,

“We believe that forgiveness of sins belongs only to the word of God, of which, as St. Ambrose says, man is only a minister. If man condemns or absolves, it is not of him, but the word of God which is declared.” At another point they say, “We believe that Jesus Christ is our only Mediator, Intercessor, and Advocate, through whom we have access to the Father and that, standing justified in His blood, we will be delivered from death. And by whom, standing reconciled, we will obtain full victory over death. As for the saints who have departed we say that they desire our salvation in the fulfillment of the kingdom of God and that the number of the elect be completed. However, we do not need to address ourselves to them, through intercession, in order to obtain certain things because this would be contravening the commandment of God. We who are alive, who are united as members of one body, we ought to pray one for the other as we are taught in many passages of the Holy Scripture.”

Then they end their confession of faith with this statement:

“This is the answer we give to the articles you sent to us, according to the measure and portion of faith that God has given to us, to whom we pray that it may please Him that our faith not die until it produce fruits worthy of His children.”

And that is the Guanabara Confession of Faith.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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In this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols introduces us to the Irish Bishop who helped continue the Reformation in the 17th century.

Bishop James Ussher came from a very long line in Ireland. If you go way back in his family line, you will find that his ancestor was named Ussher because of his occupation—he was usher to the king.

When James had come of age, he was ready to go off to college. He was sent to Dublin and became one of the first graduates of the newly established Trinity College at the University of Dublin. He studied theology and biblical studies, and after his graduation he was appointed professor of theology. But he was also then brought into the church battles in those days, and so he was appointed bishop, whereupon he left the classroom and entered church politics.Bishop James Ussher

Throughout the 1610s–1630s, there were some difficulties for those who were intensely behind the Reformation, as Ussher was, in the British Isles. This was largely due to King James VI and I and King Charles I. They were not interested in the reforms and the desires of the Puritans. They were only interested in extending their reach in Great Britain and also to Ireland. Ussher was trying to withstand that move away from the Reformation and he devoted much of his time during those decades to fighting for the Reformation in his home of Ireland.

He did not neglect his scholarly duties either. He applied his efforts to what would be his massive work—it took him more than twenty years to write—called The Annals of the Old Testament. James Ussher loved dates, and he tried to give a chronology of the Bible. He dated creation to October 23, 4004 B.C., and he went on from there to assign dates to various Old Testament events. Sometime in the 1650s, those dates were added to the King James Bible. He also wrote a book called A Body of Divinity. At our library at Reformation Bible College, we have a wonderful shelf of early Reformation books, and among them I found a copy of the fourth edition of this book, published in 1653. A Body of Divinity is subtitled The sum and substance of Christian Religion, Catechistically propounded and explained, by way of Question and Answer, Methodically and Familiarly handled, composed long since by James Ussher, Bishop.

Ussher begins his catechism with questions about “What is the meaning of life?” He puts it this way: “What is that which all men especially desire?” The answer: “Eternal life and happiness.” “How do men look to obtain happiness?” he asks. “By religion, which is a thing so proper to man that it doth distinguish him more from beasts than very reason that is made his form. For very beasts have some sparks of resemblance of reason, but none of religion.” “Is religion generally to be found in all men?” “Yes,” Ussher answers, “for the very heathens condemned them to death that denied all religion and there are no people so barbarous but they will have some form of religion to acknowledge a god as all India, east and west, showeth.” “May they be saved by any religion?” he asks. “No, but only by the true as appears. This is life eternal, to know Thee and to know who Thou has sent, Jesus Christ, and he that knoweth not the Son, knoweth not the Father.”

From there, Ussher takes us into his whole Body of Divinity.

Stay connected with 5 Minutes in Church History by getting the weekly podcast on iTunesSoundCloud, or via RSS. You can also subscribe to the blog via RSS and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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