The Rev. Lawrence Saunders
The Rev. Lawrence Saunders
Mr. Saunders, after passing some time in the school of Eaton, was chosen to go to King's College in Cambridge, where he continued three years, and profited in knowledge and learning very much for that time. Shortly after he quitted the university, and went to his parents, but soon returned to Cambridge again to his study, where he began to add to the knowledge of the Latin, the study of the Greek and Hebrew tongues, and gave himself up to the study of the Holy Scriptures, the better to qualify himself for the office of preacher.
In the beginning of King Edward's reign, when God's true religion was introduced, after license obtained, he began to preach, and was so well liked of them who then had authority that they appointed him to read a divinity lecture in the College of Forthringham. The College of Fothringham being dissolved he was placed to be a reader in the minster at Litchfield. After a certain space, he departed from Litchfield to a benefice in Leicestershire, called Church-langton, where he held a residence, taught diligently, and kept a liberal house. Thence he was orderly called to take a benefice in the city of London, namely, All-hallows in Bread-street. After this he preached at Northhampton, nothing meddling with the state, but boldly uttering his conscience against the popish doctrines which were likely to spring up again in England, as a just plague for the little love which the English nation then bore to the blessed Word of God, which had been so plentifully offered unto them.
The queen's party who were there, and heard him, were highly displeased with him for his sermon, and for it kept him among them as a prisoner. But partly for love of his brethren and friends, who were chief actors for the queen among them, and partly because there was no law broken by hbis preaching, they dismissed him.
Some of his friends, perceiving such fearful menacing, counselled him to fly out of the realm, which he refused to do. But seeing he was with violence kept from doing good in that place, he returned towards London, to visit his flock.
In the afternoon of Sunday, October 15, 1554, as he was reading in his church to exhort his people, the bishop of London interrupted him, by sending an officer for him.
His treason and sedition the bishop's charity was content to let slip until another time, but a heretic he meant to prove him, and all those, he said, who taught and believed that the administration of the Sacraments, and all orders of the Church, are the most pure, which come the nearest to the order of the primitive Church.
After much talk concerning this matter, the bishop desired him to write what he believed of transubstantiation. Lawrence Saunders did so, saying, "My Lord, you seek my blood, and you shall have it: I pray God that you may be so baptized in it that you may ever after loathe blood-sucking, and become a better man." Upon being closely charged with contumacy, the severe replies of Mr. Saunders to the bishop, (who had before, to get the favor of Henry VIII written and set forth in print, a book of true obedience, wherein he had openly declared Queen Mary to be a bastard) so irritated him that he exclaimed, "Carry away this frenzied fool to prison."
After this good and faithful martyr had been kept in prison one year and a quarter, the bishops at length called him, as they did his fellow-prisoners, openly to be examined before the queen's council.
His examination being ended, the officers led him out of the place, and stayed until the rest of his fellow-prisoners were likewise examined, that they might lead them all together to prison.
After his excommunication and delivery over to the secular power, he was brought by the sheriff of London to the Compter, a prison in his own parish of Bread-street, at which he rejoiced greatly, both because he found there a fellow-prisoner, Mr. Cardmaker, with whom he had much Christian and comfortable discourse; and because out of prison, as before in his pulpit, he might have an opportunity of preaching to his parishioners. On the fourth of February, Bonner, bishop of London, came to the prison to degrade him; the day following, in the morning the sheriff of London delivered him to certain of the queen's guard, who were appointed to carry him to the city of Coventry, there to be burnt.
When they had arrived at Coventry, a poor shoemaker, who used to serve him with shoes, came to him, and said, "O my good master, God strengthen and comfort you." "Good shoemaker," Mr. Saunders replied, "I desire thee to pray for me, for I am the most unfit man for this high office, that ever was appointed to it; but my gracious God and dear Father is able to make me strong enough." The next day, being the eighth of February, 1555, he was led to the place of execution, in the park, without the city. He went in an old gown and a shirt, barefooted, and oftentimes fell flat on the ground, and prayed. When he was come to nigh the place, the officer, appointed to see the execution done, said to Mr. Saunders that he was one of them who marred the queen's realm, but if he would recant, there was pardon for him. "Not I," replied the holy martyr, "but such as you have injured the realm. The blessed Gospel of Christ is what I hold; that do I believe, that have I taught, and that will I never revoke!" Mr. Saunders then slowly moved towards the fire, sank to the earth and prayed; he then rose up, embraced the stake, and frequently said, "Welcome, thou cross of Christ! welcome everlasting life!" Fire was then put to the fagots, and, he was overwhelmed by the dreadful flames, and sweetly slept in the Lord Jesus.