The Rev Mr 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 Fothringham. 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 Northampton,
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, partly because there was no law broken by his
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, Oct. 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. Laurence Saunders did so,
saying, "My Lord, you seek my blood, and you shall have it: I pray God
that you may be so baptised 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 favour 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
staid 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. The 4th 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 8th 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, bare-footed, and oftentimes fell flat on the
ground, and prayed. When he was come nigh to the place, the officer,
appointed to see the execution done, said to Mr. Saunders, that he was
one of them who married 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.
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