We often hear of the great martyrs of the faith throughout church history. Yet, so often these lists contain primarily the names of men—great, revered men, to whom Christians today owe a great deal. It is important to remember, however, that many women also have died for their faith throughout history. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells many of these stories, and I share only one of them with you today for your consideration—the story of Mrs. Cicely Ormes:
This young martyr, aged twenty-two, was the wife of Mr. Edmund Ormes, worsted weaver of St. Lawrence, Norwich. At the death of Miller and Elizabeth Cooper, before mentioned, she had said that she would pledge them of the same cup they drank of. For these words she was brought to the chancellor, who would have discharged her upon promising to go to church, and to keep her belief to herself. As she would not consent to this, the chancellor urged that he had shown more lenity to her than any other person, and was unwilling to condemn her, because she was an ignorant foolish woman; to this she replied, (perhaps with more shrewdness than he expected), that, however great his desire might be to spare her sinful flesh, it could not equal her inclination to surrender it up in so great a quarrel. The chancellor then pronounced the fiery sentence, and, September 23, 1557, she was brought to the stake, at eight o’clock in the morning.
After declaring her faith to the people, she laid her hand on the stake, and said, “Welcome thou cross of Christ.” Her hand was sooted in doing this, (for it was the same stake at which Miller and Cooper were burnt), and she at first wiped it; but directly after again welcomed and embraced it as the “sweet cross of Christ.” After the tormentors had kindled the fire, she said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour.” Then crossing her hands upon her breast, and looking upwards with the utmost serenity, she stood the fiery furnace. Her hands continued gradually to rise till the sinews were dried, and then they fell. She uttered no sigh of pain, but yielded her life, an emblem of that celestial paradise in which is the presence of God, blessed for ever.
It might be contended that this martyr voluntarily sought her own death, as the chancellor scarcely exacted any other penance of her than to keep her belief to herself; yet it should seem in this instance as if God had chosen her to be a shining light, for a twelve-month before she was taken, she had recanted; but she was wretched till the chancellor was informed, by letter, that she repented of her recantation from the bottom of her heart. As if to compensate for her former apostasy, and to convince the Catholics that she meant no more to compromise for her personal security, she boldly refused his friendly offer of permitting her to temporize. Her courage in such a cause deserves commendation—the cause of Him who has said, Whoever is ashamed of me on earth, of such will I be ashamed in heaven.
John Foxe. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Kindle edition (Kindle Locations 5200-5217).