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Last Martyr to be Burned!

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Rhetorician, Apr 11, 2018.

  1. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician Administrator
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    Hello all who love Baptist History:

    "The last execution for 'heresy' in England took place by the burning alive at Litchtfield of a dissenter who was guilty of the wicked doctrines of 'Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Arius, Macedonius, Simon Magus, of Manes, Photinus, and the Anabaptists, and other such arch-heretics.' The martyr in the flames was Edward Wightman, the date was April 11, 1612, and the English King upon the throned was none other than King James I, just a year after his Authorized Version of the Scriptures became public!"

    Taken from This Day in Baptist History, Bob Jones Publishers

    I thought you might like to read this today.

    sdg!

    rd
     
  2. rsr

    rsr <b> 7,000 posts club</b>
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    I'm not sure that Wightman should be subsumed under the label Baptist, given his rejection of Trinitarianism.

    In any case, after Wightman's execution James I decided to deal with heretics by letting them starve in prison. Thomas Helwys (who was orthodox, unlike Wightman) finally died in prison about 1616 for defending religious liberty.
     
  3. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician Administrator
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    rsr,

    Very good I knew the posting would bring up some good discussion, and so it has.

    rd
     
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  4. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn Well-Known Member
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    In my mind I have a memory that Wightman last person to be burned at the stake for heresy, rather than the last person executed for heresy, period. May just be an incorrect memory.

    E. Wightman may not have legitimately been considered a Baptist, but (again in my memory) some of his children or grandchildren turned up among the Baptists in America.

    Finally, one more memory. Some in Wightman's day said that if he actually held all the opinions he was accused of, he was either an idiot or a madman -- and if he did he should had sympathy rather than burning at the stake.
     
  5. Logos1560

    Logos1560 Well-Known Member
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    The Church of England's High Commission Court like some Roman Catholic religious courts may have sometimes accused people of beliefs that they did not actually hold. It has been suggested that some of the supposed heresies of which Wightman was accused are contradictory so that it is unlikely that he could have held them all. When a person was considered a heretic for any belief, is it possible that this court may have thrown in accusations of other heresies for good measure?

    The High Commission Court and Star Chamber may have through their extreme, cruel treatment of those people even sometimes using what could be considered torture may have caused individuals supposedly to confess to beliefs that they did not actually hold prior to the extreme pressure under which they were put. Any signed confession obtained by the High Commission Court may be suspect.

    The Church of England did not consider Baptists to be doctrinally sound, and it sometimes accused Baptists of things that they did not believe.

    Perhaps all the allegations made by the Church of England's High Commission Court should not be assumed to be true.
     
  6. Logos1560

    Logos1560 Well-Known Member
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    Here is some documented information about the Church of England's Court of High Commission that would make me wonder about any confessions to heresies that it obtained.

    Durham Dunlop maintained that the Court of High Commission “became a terrible instrument of tyranny and persecution in the hands of Church and State. It fined or imprisoned its victims, confiscated their property, tortured or murdered them at will, without being amenable to appeal, or subject to any controlling authority save the Crown, whose creation it was, and whose sanguinary instrument it always proved” (Church, p. 157). John Southerdan Burn maintained that “the whole course of the High Commission from its first arrest or summons, to the ultimate ruin, or death of its unfortunate victim, was a series of unconstitutional and illegal cruelties,--refusing a copy of the charges, insisting on the oath ex-offico, suspending, deriving, degrading, and ruining the poor wretch,--occasionally sending to prison even the lawyer who dared to defend the accused, or to question the power or legality of the Court” (The High Commission, p. vi). J. B. Marsden wrote that “the high court of commission aimed, whether with design or otherwise, a deadly wound upon our civil and religious liberties” (History, p. 66).

    John Brown stated that this Court's "methods of investigation were described as worthy only of the Spanish Inquisition" (English Puritans, p. 76). Neal also observed that this Court's methods "were almost equal to the Spanish Inquisition" with its "long imprisonments of ministers without bail or bringing them to trial" (History of the Puritans, p. xi). James Miall asserted that this Court “exercised a jurisdiction greatly resembling that of the inquisition in other countries” (Footsteps, p. 79). David Hume noted that “an inquisitorial tribunal, with all its terrors and iniquities, was erected in the kingdom” (History of England, VII, p. 85). Cramp contended that the High Commission Court "was in reality a Protestant Inquisition" (Baptist History, p. 302). William Cathcart referred the High Commission Court as “a tribunal second only to the Inquisition in wickedness” (Baptist Encyclopaedia, pp. 663-664). Fisher described the High Commission Court as “a species of Protestant inquisition” (History of the Christian Church, p. 403). Leonard Bacon maintained that “the High Commission for Causes Ecclesiastical might well be called the English Inquisition” (Genesis, p. 79). When the High Commission Court was brought into Scotland in 1610, George Gillespie also compared it to "the Spanish Inquisition" (Dispute, p. 183). William Hetherington wrote: “Never was a more tyrannical court instituted than that of High Commission” (History of the Church, p. 71). Babbage noted that in 1610, "the House of Commons addressed a Petition to the king for the redress of grievances arising through the Court of High Commission" (Puritanism and Richard Bancroft, pp. 286-287). Smith observed that John Cotton (1585-1652) complained that "the ecclesiastical courts are dens of lions," "cages of uncleanness, and roosting places of birds of prey, the tabernacles of bribery, forges of extortion, and fetters of slavery, a terror of all good men, and a praise to them that do evil" (Select Memoirs, pp. 391-392). Durham Dunlop asserted: “The extraordinary powers conferred on it [the Court of High Commission] by the mere prerogative of the Crown, were not only unknown to the law, but in many respects were in direct violation of the law, and it was a tribunal in no one respect less iniquitous in its constitution, or atrocious in its proceedings, than the Papal Inquisition” (Church, pp. 247-248). John Milton (1608-1674) referred to “the illegal proceeding of the high commission and oath ex officio” (Prose Works, III, p. 139). Marsden maintained that “the high court of commission aimed, whether with design or otherwise, a deadly wound upon our civil and religious liberties; and while it existed it was equally inconsistent with both” (History of the Early Puritans, p. 66).

    Hill pointed out that Lord Burghley and others had compared the High Commission Court to "the Spanish Inquisition" (Society and Puritanism, p. 350). F. O. White cited Lord Burghley as noting that “this kind of proceeding is too much savoring of the Romish inquistion” (Lives, p. 228). After giving many documented examples, Samuel Hopkins concluded: “In their usurpation of power; in their contempt of all civil tribunals, laws, and charters; in their control of the courts; in their illegal and midnight arrests; in their slow torture by long imprisonments, by chains, by starvation, by poisonous air; in their more direct torture by the ‘Little Ease,’ the cudgel, and the dungeon; and in the measures which they coolly adopted to bring their victims to recantation or to death;--we think we have shown a more exact resemblance of the [High] Commissioners of England to the Inquisitors of Spain than Lord Burleigh dreamed of, probably a more exact resemblance than he ever discovered” (The Puritans, III, p. 502).

    Hopkins described the “Little Ease” as “a place of such strait dimensions, that the prisoners could neither stand, nor sit, nor lie down,--an ingenious contrivance to adminster terrible torture without trouble to the torturer” (III, pp. 494-495). Durham Dunlop noted that “Little Ease was a place of such contracted dimensions, that when thrust into it the sufferer could nether stand, nor sit, nor lie down at full length, but had to compress himself into a squatting posture, in which position he had to remain for days” (Church, p. 222). Hopkins asserted that “when by the torture of ‘Little Ease’ men were well-nigh killed, or by that of the cudgel were beaten to a jelly, their keepers knew that forcing them to chapel was the will of the Commissioners, and did but employ these means of coercion with which they were furnished” (Puritans, III, p. 499).
     
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  7. Logos1560

    Logos1560 Well-Known Member
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    Phil Stringer claimed that Wightman was burned at the stake "for declaring that baptism of infants was an abominable custom" or "for being a Baptist" (Faithful Baptist Witness, p. 7).

    William Cutter wrote: “Edward Wightman, ancestor of the American family, was condemned to death and burned at the stake, April 11, 1611, because of his Baptist faith” (New England Families, Vol. 1, p. 36).

    Different sources give the year as either 1611 or as 1612. One possible reason for this difference may be that the calendar year system was later changed. At one time the last month of a calendar year was not December. Thus, after December of 1611, there were later months such as January, February, March that were still considered in the year 1611. Under the different calendar year system where the last month of the year is December, later historical writers may consider those same months to be January, February, March of the year 1612.
     
  8. Logos1560

    Logos1560 Well-Known Member
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    KJV translators George Abbot and Lancelot Andrewes were two of the Church of England divines who urged the burning at the stake of Bartholomew Legate in March of 1611 (Paine, Men Behind the KJV, p. 142). George Abbot even presided over the proceedings (Ibid., p. 93).

    The Dictionary of National Biography pointed out that Legate and Edward Wightman were brought before the court of George Abbot and that "Abbot was from the first resolved that no mercy should be shown them" (p. 11). This reference work also pointed out that "Abbot was constantly in attendance in the high commission court and tried to enforce conformity in the church with consistent love of order" (Ibid., p. 18). Andrewes was also a member of the infamous Court of High Commission and the Court of Star Chamber (Sermons, p. xxi).
     
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