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Earl of Bedford, and Sir Richard Southwell, along with the Lord Mayor of London, and other eminent personages. Before the fire was made ready, one of them hearing that the martyrs had bags of gunpowder about their bodies, a humane precaution to shorten their sufferings, and fearing that its explosion might drive the faggots about his ears, hastened to express his alarm; but was assured by the Earl of Bedford that there was no danger.
The dreadful preparations completed, Dr. Shaxton, an apostate, then in high favour with the authorities, began his sermon. Anne Askew listened with great attention, approving him when he spoke well; but when he said something amiss, contrary to true Scriptural teaching, interrupting him with the comment, "He speaketh without the Book." At its conclusion, the four victims said their prayers,—Anne Askew "with an angel's countenance and a smiling face,"1 —while the multitude and concourse of the people was so exceeding great, that the barricades erected round the place of execution could hardly resist the pressure. Wriothesley then sent to Anne Askew letters offering her the King's pardon if she recanted. She refused even to look upon them, exclaiming :—" I came not hither to deny my Lord and Master." Similar letters were conveyed to the other sufferers,—but they joyfully emulated the constancy of their sister, and all encouraging and strengthening one another with words of hope and faith and love,—were rapt into an ecstasy of enthusiasm as if they already saw themselves, like Elijah, borne heavenward in a chariot of fire.
No further cause for delay existing, the Lord Mayor ordered the faggots to be lighted, crying with a loud voice, Fiat justitia. "And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed Martyrs, being troubled so many manner of ways, and having passed through so many torments, having now ended the last course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord, leaving behind her a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow."
As the fire kindled, the sky was all at once overclouded; a peal of thunder broke above the heads of the multitude (" God knows," says John Lond, "whether I may truly 1 See John Lond's narrative in Strype, Eccles. Mem., i. pt. i. 599
term it a thunder-crack, as the people did in the Gospel, or an angel, or rather God's own voice"); and the rain descended. "The sky," says Bale, quaintly, "abhorring so wicked an act, suddenly altered colour, and the clouds from above gave a thunderclap, not at all unlike to what is written in Psalm lxxvi. 8 :—' Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still.' The elements both declared therein the high displeasure of God for so tyrannous a murder of innocents, and also expressly signified His mighty Hand present to the comfort of them which trusted in Him." The Papists necessarily placed a different construction on this sign from above; but in the present day there are few of any creed who will not feel that the sympathy of Heaven rather than its wrath will ever be vouchsafed to those who, for truth and freedom, silently, and "in fearless faith," bow like Anne Askew, their noble souls to death, and win the Martyr's crown!
S. FRANCIS DE SALES:
BISHOP OF GENEVA.
"His faith, perhaps, in some nice tenets might
[Authorities:—The following sketch is founded on H. C. Sidney Lear's "S. Francis de Sales," and "The Spirit of S. Francis de Sales," by Jean Pierre Camus, Bishop of Belley. Camus was consecrated Bishop of Belley (a see on the south-west side of that of Geneva), by Francis, at the exceptionally early age of 26. To his long and close intimacy with Francis de Sales we owe much of our knowledge of his character, and many of his wisest sayings, which are collected in "L'Esprit du bien-heureux Francois de Sales, Evesque de Geneve, de M. Jean Pierre Camus, Evesque de Belley." The complete works of Francis de Sales were published in a neat edition at Lyons in 1819. Of the "Introduction to the Devout Life" there are several English translations; and it forms the subject of a lecture by the Dean of Norwich (Dr. Goulburn) in Kempe's "Companions for the Devout Life" (edit. 1877).]