Some Protestants prominent in church history have recently been portrayed — at times very inaccurately — in BBC television dramas.
Wolf Hall is novelist Hilary Mantel’s take on the career of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister of King Henry VIII. Readers will be moved by this prayer of Cromwell (from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) just before he was clumsily beheaded at Tower Hill, on 28 July 1540, on the orders of the king.
‘O Lord Jesus, which art the only health of all men living, and the everlasting life of them which die in thee; I wretched sinner do submit myself wholly unto thy most blessed will, and being sure that the thing cannot perish which is committed unto thy mercy, willingly now I leave this frail and wicked flesh, in sure hope that thou wilt in better wise restore it to me again at the last day, in the resurrection of the just.
‘I beseech thee, most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, that thou wilt, by thy grace, make strong my soul against all temptations, and defend me with the buckler of thy mercy against all the assaults of the devil.
‘I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope and trust, is in thy most merciful goodness. I have no merits nor good works, which I may allege before thee.
‘Of sins and evil works (alas!), I see a great heap. But yet, through thy mercy, I trust to be in the number of them to whom thou wilt not impute their sins, but wilt take and accept me for righteous and just, and to be the inheritor of everlasting life.
‘Thou merciful Lord wast born for my sake. Thou didst suffer both hunger and thirst for my sake. Thou didst teach, pray and fast for my sake. All thy holy actions and works thou wroughtest for my sake. Thou sufferedst most grievous pains and torments for my sake.
Finally, thou gavest thy most precious body and thy blood to be shed on the cross for my sake. Now, most merciful Saviour, let all these things profit me, that thou freely hast done for me, which hast given thyself also for me.
‘Let thy blood cleanse and wash away the spots and foulness of my sins. Let thy righteousness hide and cover my unrighteousness. Let the merits of thy passion and blood-shedding be satisfaction for my sins.
‘Give me Lord thy grace, that the faith of my salvation in thy blood, waver not in me, but may ever be firm and constant; that the hope of thy mercy and life everlasting never decay in me; that love wax not cold in me; finally, that the weakness of my flesh be not overcome with the fear of death.
‘Grant me, merciful Saviour, that when death hath shut up the eyes of my body, yet the eyes of my soul may still behold and look upon thee; and when death hath taken away the use of my tongue, yet my heart may cry and say unto thee, Lord into thy hands I commend my soul. Lord Jesus receive my spirit. Amen.’