Thomas Benet - Martyr (1531)

Thomas Benet lived in Cambridge during the reign of Henry VIII at a time when he and others like him had access to the Bible. He was a close friend of Thomas Bilney. Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge, who also happened to be a leading Reformer. By studying the Bible, Benet discovered that the Roman Church made many claims contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ found there. Ii, particular he discovered that the Bible said that the Vicar of Christ was the Holy Spirit, not the Pope of Rome. He also found out that the Bible said Christians were to pray to God alone, and not to idols, angels or the souls of dead people.

Benet moved to Exeter in 1524 because by then Cambridge had become far too dangerous a place for Bible-believers to live in, but there he found exactly the same false religion all around him. Benet knew the Bible commanded all Christians to 'earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints', which meant it was wrong to remain silent in the midst of idolatry and false religion. Having a tender conscience he knew he would have no peace of soul until he had spoken out against lies and false claims of authority.

In October 1530 he, fixing scrolls to the door, declared in them what he had discovered from the Bible, making statements like 'The Pope is Anti-Christ, and we ought to worship God only, and no saints'. An Order for daily sermons against 'the heretic' was immediately enacted by the enraged Bishop and the Mayor set out to capture him.

Benet continued to attend services at the Cathedral and had some narrow escapes. On one occasion his pursuers actually sat either side of him throughout the service, and didn't realise he was there! Benet was finally captured during a service for an Excommunication that he secretly attended -- his own!

In the midst of all this superstition, Benet could contain himself no longer. He burst out laughing, thus giving himself away. Benet was put in stocks and irons and ordered to submit to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ to whom all authority was en, and to confess that Christians should offer prayers to the saints. He refused. Instead, he showed them from the Bible that both of these things were wrong and should not be done by Christians.

He was burned to death at Livery Dole on January 10th 1531 because he would not submit to the authority of the Pope or pray to saints. An angry John Barnehouse thrust a flaming faggot into his face and said, 'Here. heretic, pray to Our Lady or I'll make you do it!' Benet asked God to forgive Barnehouse and all his other tormentors, Then he said, 'Father, receive my spirit!', and died in the flames.