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John Bradford (1510 – 1 July 1555) was an English Reformer, prebendary of St. Paul's, and martyr. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor and burned at the stake on 1 July 1555.
- There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.
- On seeing prisoners being led to their execution, as quoted in Problems in the Relations of God and Man (1911) by Clement Charles Julian Webb, p. 107.
- Paraphrased variant: There, but for the grace of God, go I.
- This paraphrase has become a proverbial expression, and one further paraphrased by Phil Ochs in his protest song "There But For Fortune" (1963): There but for fortune, go you or I. It also led to the sardonic expression "There, but for the grace of God, goes God" which has been variously attributed to Herman J. Mankiewicz, in reference to Orson Welles while he was directing Citizen Kane, and to Winston Churchill regarding Stafford Cripps.
The Writings of John Bradford (1848)
Sermon on Repentence
- The father is against the son, the brother against the brother: and, Lord, with what conscience!
O be thou merciful unto us, and in thine anger remember thy mercy; suffer thyself to be entreated; be reconciled unto us; nay, reconcile us unto thee. O thou God of justice, judge justly. O thou Son of God, which earnest to destroy the works of Satan, destroy his furors, now smoking, and almost set on fire in this realm. We have sinned; we have sinned: and therefore thou art angry. O be not angry for ever. Give us peace, peace, peace in the Lord. Set us to war against sin, against Satan, against our carnal desires; and give us the victory this way.
This victory we obtain by faith. This faith is not without repentance, as her gentleman usher before her: before her, I say, in discerning true faith from false faith, lip-faith, Englishmen's faith: for else it springs out of true faith.
- The life we have at this present is the gift of God, "in whom we live, move, and are:" and therefore is he called Jehovah. For the which life as we should be thankful, so we may not in any wise use it after our own fantasy, but to the end for the which it is given and lent us; that is, to the setting forth of God's praise and glory, by repentance, conversion, and obedience to his good will and holy laws: whereunto his long-suffering doth, as it were, even draw us, if our hearts by impenitency were not hardened. And there fore our life in the scripture is called a "walking:" for that as the body daily draweth more and more near his end, that is the earth, even so our soul draweth daily more and more near the death, that is salvation or damnation, heaven or hell.
- Summa, "the eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man," that they shall then inherit and most surely enjoy; although here they be tormented, prisoned, burned, solicited of Satan, tempted of the flesh, and entangled with the world; wherethrough they are enforced to cry, "Thy kingdom come:" come, Lord.
- A Meditation on the Coming of Christ to Judgment, And of the Reward Both of the Faithful and Un-Faithful.
Quotes about Bradford
- Tenderness and sympathy were indeed prominent features of Bradford’s character. Fuller remarks: “It is a demonstration to me that he was of a sweet temper, because Parsons, who will hardly afford a good word to a Protestant, saith “that he seemed to be of a more soft and mild nature than many of his fellow." Indeed he was a most holy and mortified man, who secretly in his closet would so weep for his sins, one would have thought he would never have smiled again; and then, appearing in public, he would be so harmlessly pleasant, one would think he had never wept before.”
The familiar story, that, on seeing evil-doers taken to the place of execution, he was wont to exclaim, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford," is a universal tradition, which has overcome the lapse of time. And Venning, writingin 1653, desirous to show that, “by the sight of others' sins, men may learn to bewail their own sinfulness and heart of corruption,” instances the case of Bradford, who, “when he saw any drunk or heard any swear, &c., would railingly complain, 'Lord, I have a drunken head; Lord, I have a swearing heart!'”
His personal appearance and daily habits are graphically described by Foxe. “He was, of person, a tall man, slender, spare of body, somewhat a faint sanguine colour, with an auburn beard“). He slept not commonly above four hours a night; and in his bed, till sleep came, his book went not out of his hand. ...His painful diligence, reading, and prayer, I might almost account it his whole life. He did not eat above one meal a day, which was but very little when he took it; and his continual study was upon his knees. In the midst of dinner he used oftentimes to muse with himself, having his hat over his eyes, from whence came commonly plenty of tears, dropping on his trencher. Very gentle he was to man and child.... His chief recreation was, in no gaming or other pastime, but only in honest company and comely talk, wherein he would spend a little leisure after dinner at the board, and so to prayer and his book again. He counted that hour not wellspent, wherein he did not some good, either with his pen, study, or exhortation to others.”
- Aubrey Townsend, in his Biographical Notice for The Writings of John Bradford (1853), citing Worthies of England (1840 edition) by Thomas Fuller, Vol. II. p. 193, "The heathen improved", by Ralph Venning, an appendix to Canaan's Flowings (1653), sect. 110. p. 222, and Actes and Monuments (1563) by John Foxe, Vol. 7, p. 145.
- Extensive Biography, Writings, and a picture of John Bradford
- A brief article on the life and martyrdom of JohnBradford
- Biography of Bradford
- Sketch of the execution of John Bradford
- Bradford in Foxe's Book of Martyrs
- Image Collection of Bradford from the National Portrait Gallery
- The Old Man and the New by Bradford
- John Bradford's memorial page on Find A Grave