I have always been moved by the story of the lesser known English Reformer John Hooper. Bishop Ryle recounts the events of his life and death in his excellent book Five English Reformers. 

Hooper was made bishop of Gloucester and Worcester during the success of the reformation enjoyed under Edward VI. When Mary asceded to the throne in 1553 events took a turn for the worse. Many of the reformers were imprisoned and martyred. Hooper himself was kept in prison for 18 months before eventually being led out on a cold February morning in 1555 to be burned at the stake. As it was a cold and windy morning the fire didn’t take properly and had to be re-lit three times, all the while Hooper’s lower parts were being slowly and tortuously burned away. It took a terrible 45 minutes for Hooper to expire – a horrific and cruel way to die.

Perhaps, most moving of all, having read all this, is Hooper’s response to a friend who visited him shortly before his death urging him to just say the words the establishment wanted him to say. His friend said “Can you not see that life is sweet and death is bitter?” Hooper replied “The life to come is more sweet; the death to come more bitter.”


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