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summit of the hill. How lovely the view which bursts upon us ! Well does it deserve the fame which has ranked it among the most beautiful vallies of this beautiful Wales. What luxuriant woods, what swelling hills rising on every side, how graceful the sweep of the shining river as it flows through the sweet valley beneath us, and what a noble object in the view is the town of Caermarthen, with its church-towers and its ruined castle, and its old bridge of many arches spanning the broad stream, where that tall vessel with her sails unfurled, and her light pennon floating in the breeze, wends her majestic way towards the sea.
It is with no overstrained fancy that we may picture to ourselves the good and simple-minded Bishop Ferrar leaving the town beneath us for such a spot as this-leaving behind him the din of slanderous tongues, and losing for a little while the disquietude of sorrowful thoughts, while gazing upon the natural beauties of this delightful scene. I see him wearing the broad hat and the flowing gown at which his malicious accusers loved to rail, as marks of his folly. His little son is with him, looking with innocent smiles into his father's mournful face, and I hear the sweet tones of the child's voice, as he tries to draw his father's attention to the various objects which attract his own notice. And now he rests upon this pleasant bank, and opens the clasped volume, which he takes from his bosom, and bids the playful boy sit down beside him, and reads to him of the early years of that wise and holy child who was found sitting among the doctors in the house of God both hearing them and asking them questions, while all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers, and who as He grew in stature also grew in grace, and in favour with God and man. And now all the cheerfulness of the sweet child is gone, while the father speaks to him of the sorrows and the sufferings of that child when he grew up to be a man; and tears are in the child's eyes, as he hears how Jesus was wounded in the house of his friends, and how he went to the place of his execution, toiling and fainting beneath the ponderous cross to which they nailed his sacred hands and feet, and on which he died-for he was never spared to see old age-but how he died breathing forth in tender love and pardon, prayers of intercession to his heavenly Father for the wretched men who murdered him, and mocked and taunted him in his dying agonies. And still he speaks of Jesus with all the glowing love of his full heart, as God as well as man, and as rising from the grave in the power of God, and saving by his death every dying sinner that looks to him as his Saviour and his God, and as he tells of his going up through the clear air, even till a cloud had hidden him from the sight of those who stood below; the child looks up into the deep blue of the heavens above him, his eyes beaming with admiring love, as if expecting to behold the ascending form of the triumphant Redeemer.
One of the bitter charges brought against this holy martyr, was, that he was a married man ;--a strange charge for that church which has unduly exalted above his inspired brethren the only apostle, whose wife is spoken of in holy scripture. One of the demands which were tauntingly made upon him, was that he should repudiate his wife, and renounce the bonds of his chaste marriage vow.—. You made a profession,' said the insolent Gardiner, “to live without a wife. “No my Lord,' replied Bishop Ferrar, “that did I never. I made a profession
to live chaste--not without a wife. Another of the accusations brought against this godly Bishop, was that he used to whistle to his child, and that he said the boy understood his whistle when he was but three days old,' --and this absurd charge was gravely brought forward in court against him. He answered it in these beautiful words, ‘that he did use with gravity all honest-loving entertainment of his child, to encourage him hereafter willingly, at his father's mouth, to receive wholesome doctrine of the true fear and love of God, and that he hath whistled to his child, but said not that the child understood him. When Bishop Ferrar was called upon to appear before the crafty Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, in the company of Bishop Hooper, Master Rogers, Master Bradford, Master Sanders and others, he was not condemned with those noble martyrs, but remanded to prison again. He was afterwards closely questioned by Gardiner, and one of his examinations is given in the book of the Acts and Monuments of Foxe, a notable specimen of overbearing insolence on the part of Gardiner, and more in the style of the bold and blustering Bonner than of his usually assumed smoothness. The manly and Christian spirit of Bishop Ferrar was not, however, to be intimidated by the violence of the Chancellor. He stood his ground modestly, but firmly. When these examinations were ended, Bishop Ferrar was sent down to Caermarthen to be brought before a Commission, the authority of which he would not consent to acknowledge. It consisted of his former accusers, with the man who had been put as Bishop in his place ; and in this mind he continued during the two first citations which he was called upon to attend. He was again summoned, and then with much gentleness, he humbly submitted himself, and agreed to receive the charges that were brought forward against him, but required a copy of the several articles, and a reasonable time to answer them. Those articles he refused to subscribe, and we cannot wonder when we read them. Our only astonishment is that any men professing to believe the true articles of the Christian faith could have had the hardihood to bring them forward. In those articles “the Bishop was required to renounce
Christ's body and blood in the sacramental elements of bread and wine. To acknowledge the mass to be a propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and dead. To agree that general councils lawfully congregated never did and never can err. To acknowledge that men are not justified before God by faith only; but that hope and charity are necessarily required to justification. That the Catholic (or rather Romish) church, which only hath authority to expound scripture, and to define controversies of religion, and to ordain things appertaining to public discipline, is visible, and like unto a city set upon a mountain, for all men to understand.'
The Romish church, at the time of the Reformation, has here furnished to us a valuable document, or witness, from her own confession, to her most deadly and pernicious errors; for all these articles are utterly repugnant to the word of God, and are the very errors and heresies which all sound and Bible Christians from that day to the present have solemnly protested against.
The question has been very properly asked; ‘are any of these doctrines now disavowed by the church of Rome?' I may add, ‘are any of them to be found among the Articles of the church of England, and in fact of the Christian faith, as set before us in the only word of God's inspiration.'
Bishop Ferrar had been promoted to the see of St. David's, by the Duke of Somerset, when he was Lord Protector of England in the reign of Edward the sixth, but on the fall and death of the Protector he had been first summoned to answer numerous charges brought against him, as Foxe relates by certain covetous Canons of the Church of St. David's. The Martyrologist has given these several articles at full length, with the answers of the Bishop and an account of the various proceedings carried forward against him, and at the end of the tedious detail he adds, and thus you have heard the first trouble of this Blessed Martyr of the Lord in King Edward's days, with the whole discourses thereof: which we thought the rather here to express, to give other good Bishops warning to be more circumspect whom they should trust and have about them.
When Queen Mary came to the throne, new troubles arose to the persecuted Bishop. He had been detained in London during the examination of the witnesses against him on the former charges, but graver aecusations on points of doctrine were now brought against him, and his name is henceforth to be added to the devoted band of faithful confessors whose unflinching faith and pure doctrine on questions of vital importance brought them to the stake.
The Romanist Bishop who occupied the see of St. David's, from which Master Ferrar had never been lawfully ejected, summoned the poor prisoner once more to appear before him, and demanded of him for the last time whether he would renounce and recant his heresies, schisms, and errors (as he called them) which hitherto he had maintained, and if he would subscribe to the Catholic articles otherwise than he had done before. Bishop Ferrar made his appeal from the pretended Bishop to Cardinal Pole—but he did so in vain. He was excommunicated without delay as a heretic by the angry and violent man who occupied his rightful place, and delivered over to the secular power. He had been condemned on the 11th of March, 1555 ; on the 30th of the same month, which was the Saturday before Passion Sunday, he was led to the place where the stake was prepared for his burning. It was as we have already seen on the south side of the market cross at Caermarthen. He was faithful to the last—and his constancy was tested in a remarkable manner. There came to him shortly before his death, a knight's son named Richard Jones, lamenting over the painfulness of the suffering he was about to endure. The martyr, strong in that strength which is made perfect in weakness, replied to him, that if he should see him once to stir in the pains of his burning, he might then give no credit to his doctrine. Was there faith or presumption in this declaration? if the latter, it was surely pardoned—but we may trust it was not presumption, but faith which prompted this assured and confiding reply—faith, in the very present help of the Lord his righteousness and his strength. The noble martyr stood motionless in his heavenly patience, holding up the stumps of the hands which he had held up from the first as if welcoming the Lord in the fire, while he continued praying to Him for fresh and fresh supplies of strength and patience.
And so he continued, till a man that stood by, with a staff dashed him upon the head, and struck him down into the flames. And now my reader we will leave Caermarthen, and turn our steps towards the scene of another martyrdom which took place in the town of Cardiff, in the neighbouring county of Glamorgan. And here, not the shepherd, but one of the poor sheep of the flock fell under the cruel tyranny of those Romish heretics who ravaged the fair pastures of Christ's flock in the days of the infatuated Queen Mary.
We stand on the shore of the same waters in which the good old fisherman, Rawlins White often launched his little bark—and that stately castle has become the private residence of rank and wealth in these days of peaceful security. Its ancient keep, however, is still standing and was perhaps once the prison of the poor and persecuted servant of Christ. Here doubtless he has often sat mending his nets and listening to the sweet childish voice of that little son who was his constant companion, when he went forth to speak to all who in the neighbouring villages would hear his testimony to the goodness and the grace of His great Redeemer. Here he may have received, like the inspired Peter, who was also a fisherman, his Master's call, and felt willing to leave his nets and all that he possessed to follow Him.
He had been once ignorant, and superstitious, as the ignorant usually are—knowing nothing of the truth as it is in Jesus, but what he vainly sought for in the foolish legends and traditions of the corrupt church of Rome ; but he had heard of a purer faith, and had begun to discover the errors of that apostate church, and to distrust the teaching to which he had hitherto blindly yielded, and he had become a diligent hearer and a great searcher out of the truth.
He had not had the advantage of education in his youth; he had not even learnt to read, and he was already much advanced in years—but he was heartily desirous to become acquainted with the word of God. The way that he took was a very simple one. Occupied probably himself during the whole of the day with his boat and his nets, in working to maintain his wife and children, he sent his son to school to learn to read English, and every night, throughout the year, so soon as the boy could read, the Bible was opened and a portion of the inspired word was read; and the father learnt from the lips of his child more and more of its wonderful truths. Thus he at length became a well-instructed scribe in the sacred volume. So delighted was he with the treasures of knowledge and wisdom which he thus acquired, that he went forth every where to endeavour to enrich others with the stores that he had received, and many were the souls that were brought out of the darkness of unbelief and sin by the blessing of God upon the teaching of the good old man. Every where his little son went with him, carrying the Holy Bible, and reading the passages to which the old man referred, and so extraordinary was his memory, so accurate his knowledge of the word of God that he would often cite the book, the leaf, the very sentence in that volume, in which he was quite unable to read a word.
After the death of the young and godly King Edward, the poor old fisherman found that it was necessary for him to be more circumspect in his proceedings ; but his zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of his fellow-creatures burnt with even more intense fervour in the inmost depths of his heart. He felt even more forcibly the necessity of
letting that light which filled his own heart with its glorious effulgence shine forth in the darkness that was gathering around. He did not cease to speak of Christ to his benighted neighbours, but he was wisely guarded in his way of doing so; and in retired and secret places he would meet together with those who earnestly desired to know the way of life, and there he was wont to speak to them and to pray with them, and to lament over the sad state of religion in the land.
But that light cannot be hidden, neither can any faithful witness of the truth be long unknown. His friends perceived his danger—they warned him, while it was yet in his power—to withdraw to some distant place of safety. The old man was well aware that his life was in jeopardy, he looked every day to be apprehended and sent to prisonbut he had counted the cost of the cause which he loved so dearly, and he was ready to lay down his life for his Saviour's sake. He told his kind friends plainly, that while he thanked them heartily for their good will, he had learnt one good lesson concerning the confession and denial of Christ, which was this :--that if he, upon their persuasions, should presume to deny his master Christ-Christ in the last day would utterly deny and condemn him ; and therefore,' said he, I will by his favourable grace, confess and bear witness of Him before men, that I may find Him in everlasting life.'
The fears and forebodings of his friends were too well founded; the poor old fisherman was taken by the officers of the town as suspected of heresy. The Bishop of Llandaff was then at Chepstow, and to Chepstow the good Rawlins White was carried. There, after 'many combats and conflicts' as Foxe relates with the Bishop and his chaplains,' he was thrown into prison, but was so ill guarded, perhaps, as being too insignificant a person to be worthy of much carc—that he might often have escaped with ease. You saw the dark dungeon in the castle of Chepstow, my reader, where the dim light only serves to make the gloom more dismal, as it marks out the groining of the vaulted roof, and reveals the rings in the damp walls to which the wretched prisoners were chained. You looked down through the narrow aperture by which that dim light is admitted upon the rolling waters below, and shuddered and grew dizzy as you looked down into that frightful abyss. It was doubtless there, that this poor innocent victim first learnt to familiarize himself with the horrors of a prison, and to acquaint himself more intimately with that gracious Master, whose presence gives liberty and light to the captive in the darkest dungeon. Rawlins White was removed to another prison—for a whole year he lay in the castle of Cardiff which is now before you.
I must refer you to the narrative of John Foxe for the detail of the story of his imprisonment and his examinations. I hope you will read the whole of the sad story. It was given to the honest martyrologist by one who was still alive when his work was published. A young man named John Dane, the son of a godly gentlewoman, who befriended the martyr when in prison, 'was almost continually with him during his trouble unto his death,' and took care to keep an account of all that took place. You will, I think, agree with me that few men among the martyrs of the Marian persecution were more meek in endurance more bold for the truth, and more faithful unto death, than the poor. old godly fisherman of Cardiff. You will read of his gentle and loving