Edited by William Byron Forbush This is a book that will never die — one of the great English classics. . . . Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when “a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,” “climbed the steep ascent of heaven, ‘mid peril, toil, and pain.” “After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time, it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.”
Fox’s Book of Martyrs is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Martyrdom of Rawlins White
Rawlins White was by his calling and occupation a fisherman, living and continuing in the said trade for the space of twenty years at least, in the town of Cardiff, where he bore a very good name amongst his neighbors.
Though the good man was altogether unlearned, and withal very simple, yet it pleased God to remove him from error and idolatry to a knowledge of the truth, through the blessed Reformation in Edward’s reign. He had his son taught to read English, and after the little boy could read pretty well, his father every night after supper, summer and winter, made the boy read a portion of the Holy Scriptures, and now and then a part of some other good book.
When he had continued in his profession the space of five years, King Edward died, upon whose decease Queen Mary succeeded and with her all kinds of superstition crept in. White was taken by the officers of the town, as a man suspected of heresy, brought before the Bishop Llandaff, and committed to prison in Chepstow, and at last removed to the castle of Cardiff, where he continued for the space of one whole year. Being brought before the bishop in his chapel, he counselled him by threats and promises. But as Rawlins would in no wise recant his opinions, the bishop told him plainly that he must proceed against him by law, and condemn him as a heretic.
Before they proceeded to this extremity, the bishop proposed that prayer should be said for his conversion. “This,” said White, “is like a godly bishop, and if your request be godly and right, and you pray as you ought, no doubt God will hear you; pray you, therefore, to your God, and I will pray to my God.” After the bishop and his party had done praying, he asked Rawlins if he would now revoke. “You find,” said the latter, “your prayer is not granted, for I remain the same; and God will strengthen me in support of this truth.” After this, the bishop tried what saying Mass would do; but Rawlins called all the people to witness that he did not bow down to the host. Mass being ended, Rawlins was called for again; to whom the bishop used many persuasions; but the blessed man continued so steadfast in his former profession that the bishop’s discourse was to no purpose. The bishop now caused the definitive sentence to be read, which being ended, Rawlins was carried again to Cardiff, to a loathsome prison in the town, called Cockmarel, where he passed his time in prayer, and in the singing of Psalms. In about three weeks the order came from town for his execution.
When he came to the place, where his poor wife and children stood weeping, the sudden sight of them so pierced his heart, that the tears trickled down his face. Being come to the altar of his sacrifice, in going toward the stake, he fell down upon his knees, and kissed the ground; and in rising again, a little earth sticking on his face, he said these words. “Earth unto earth, and dust unto dust; thou art my mother, and unto thee I shall return.”
When all things were ready, directly over against the stake, in the face of Rawlins White, there was a stand erected, whereon stepped up a priest, addressing himself to the people, but, as he spoke of the Romish doctrines of the Sacraments, Rawlins cried out, “Ah! thou wicked hypocrite, dost thou presume to prove thy false doctrine by Scripture? Look in the text that followeth; did not Christ say, ‘Do this in remembrance of me?'”
Then some that stood by cried out, “Put fire! set on fire!” which being done, the straw and reeds cast up a great and sudden flame. In which flame this good man bathed his hands so long, until such time as the sinews shrank, and the fat dropped away, saving that once he did, as it were, wipe his face with one of them. All this while, which was somewhat long, he cried with a loud voice, “O Lord, receive my spirit!” until he could not open his mouth. At last the extremity of the fire was so vehement against his legs that they were consumed almost before the rest of his body was hurt, which made the whole body fall over the chains into the fire sooner than it would have done. Thus died this good old man for his testimony of God’s truth, and is now rewarded, no doubt, with the crown of eternal life.
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