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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

Anne Askew: Martyred in 1546

Dean Robinson

Compiled from Memorials of Baptist Martyrs by J. Newton Brown; Foxe’s Book of Martyrs" by John Foxe; and A History of the Baptists" by Thomas Armitage

"That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." (1 Thessalonians 3:3)

We should take note of a very important truth revealed here. The apostle Paul says that of such afflictions we were appointed thereunto. The trials and testings that come into our lives as Christians are not accidents, they are appointments. Sufferings, afflictions, persecutions are not foreign to the believer. This is why Paul says "that no man should be moved" (troubled, disturbed).

Romans 12:12 tells us we’re to be "patient in tribulation;" II Tim. 4:5 says, "endure afflictions." We need not be afraid or surprised of anything that God purposes for us. We can be assured that God knows what He is doing and is in complete control. Such was the case with Anne Askew.

In the year of 1546, a Christian young lady at the tender age of 24-years-old, was ruthlessly murdered, burned at the stake. Her name was Anne Askew. She was severely persecuted and imprisoned by King Henry VIII simply because of her stand against the heretical teachings of the Catholic church about the mass.

The Catholics teach that the "mass" is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is really present on the altar; that He is offered to God for the living and the dead by the priest. They teach that upon the words of consecration by the priest, the wafer and the alcoholic wine literally change into the real flesh and blood of Christ (transubstantiation).

They teach that the observance of the mass is a part of their salvation whereby the person actually eats the real flesh of Jesus. This practice and teaching has been traced back as far as the 9th century but it didn’t become official until it was declared a doctrine by Pope Innocent III in 1215. They base this heresy upon a literal interpretation of Matthew 26 and John 6.

History records that Anne Askew was a close friend and companion of the queen. Anne was known for circulating the Bible and other religious books, along with tracts in the palace and around the king’s courtyard. Anne was a godly and spiritual woman; she was a diligent student of the Bible and a sincere woman of prayer.

The story is told that Anne’s oldest sister was engaged to marry a man who was a Catholic, but the wedding never took place because she died. Therefore Anne was compelled by her father to take her sister’s place and marry the man. To say the least, it was an unhappy marriage for Anne. She eventually was driven out from her home by her husband. One of the accusations he made against her was this, "She (Anne) was the devoutest woman I've ever known for she began, to pray always at midnight and continued for some hours in that exercise."

One day while traveling to London, Anne was taken prisoner by a group of priests who were following her. One of the charges brought against her was her rejection of the Catholic mass. She was accursed of holding to "the new learning," that’s what the Catholics called the gospel.

While in prison Anne was subjected to all kinds of torture in order to make her incriminate herself and confess the names of other Christians who believed like she did but she told them nothing. She was quoted as saying, "Then they did put me on the rack because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen to be of my opinion; and thereon they kept me a long time and because I lay still and did not cry, they took pains to rack me with their own hands till I was nigh dead."

The rack was an instrument designed for stretching the body and pulling the body limbs out of socket. It was a large, wooden frame where the victim is laid on his back with his wrists and ankles fastened by cords or rope to two rollers at each end of the frame. These rollers or wheels are moved and turned in opposite directions until the limbs, the body parts are pulled out of their socket. There were other means of torture used in those days: branding parts of the body, severe beatings with fists or whips, starvation, pouring melted lead in the ears, cutting off body parts and limbs (like the tongue), putting out the eyes, suspending the body over a slow burning fire, etc.

In each of her questioning by the authorities, Anne exhibited great wisdom in her answers and baffled her enemies. They were amazed by her knowledge of the Word of God and her constant reference to it in answering their questions. On one occasion she was asked why she had said that she would rather read five lines in the Bible than hear five Catholic masses. She said this, "because the one did greatly edify me, and the other did not at all."

In one of her interrogations she was asked if she had said that priests could not make the body of Christ: "I have read that God made man; but that man can make God, I never yet read, nor I suppose ever shall."

he story is told that Anne spent her last hours in writing a strong denial of a report which had been passed around that she had recanted, denied the faith. She concluded her account of what really happened with this prayer: "O Lord, I have more enemies now than there be hairs on my head. Yet, Lord, let them never overcome me with vain words but fight thou, Lord, in my stead: for on Thee cast I my care."

me and time again while she was being beaten and tortured and put on the rack, the authorities of her day tried to persuade her to renounce and deny her faith in the Lord but she never gave in. Her reply and answer to their threats was that she would rather die than deny her faith. And that’s exactly what it came down to.

On the day of her execution, this dear, godly woman had to be carried in a chair to the stake to be burned because she was unable to walk any longer, due to the fact that she had been tortured so much. When they brought her to the stake, she was fastened to it by a chain in order to hold up her body. It has been recorded that there was such a large gathering of people assembled to watch the burning of Anne Askew that they had to literally push the crowd back far enough in order to make room to burn her at the stake.

At the last moment, a written pardon from the king was offered to her upon the condition that she would recant. Her reply was that she had not come to the stake to deny her Lord and Master. Therefore gunpowder was poured all over her body and then the fire was ordered to be put under her. Her crime was the denial of the mass.

One of the last things she wrote she said, “So this is the heresy that I hold and for it must suffer death."

As one writer wrote: "She kept the faith to her God, enduring shame and agony with meek unshaken constancy. O none but Christ, none but Christ could have made the weakness of a delicate woman so strong, the feebleness of a mortal creature so triumphant."

On that day in 1546, Anne Askew ended her long trial of agonies as she entered the flames of fire as a blessed sacrifice unto God, leaving us an incredible example to follow: that with every last breath God gives us, we should offer our bodies as a sacrifice unto God for His honor and glory. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1-2)

As a child of God, you belong to the Lord; your body is the temple of God for the Holy Spirit indwells every believer. It is our privilege, our opportunity, our duty to glorify and magnify the Lord Jesus Christ in and through our body as "instruments of righteousness unto God."

Philippians 1:20 could be said to be true of not only of the apostle Paul, but also of Anne Askew: "According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death."

What we must realize and understand is this: the Lord is not so much concerned about whether or not you are willing to die for Him. The question that needs to be answered and determined in our hearts is - are you willing to live for Him?