The surprising thing about John Oldcastle was the number of roles he played. During his approximately 39 years, he was a knight, a politician, a soldier, a preacher, a baron, a fugitive, a martyr, and the inspiration for Shakespeare’s character, Falstaff.

“Over a century before Luther, John Wycliffe proclaimed Reformation views in England, and a group of preachers, the Lollards, spread his message through the country. After Wycliffe’s death, John Oldcastle sought to protect and advance the Lollard ministry. Against him arose the archbishop of Canterbury, imploring the king to silence Oldcastle and the Lollards. Henry met with his baron and besought him to “submit to his mother the holy Church.” Oldcastle replied, “I am always prompt and willing to obey you, forasmuch as I know you are a king and the anointed minister of God. … But as touching the pope and his spirituality, I owe him neither suit nor service.”

Henry withdrew his support. Oldcastle, finding himself “compassed on every side with deadly dangers,” was seized, imprisoned in the Tower of London, and condemned. But before his execution could occur, “in the night season (it is not known by what means), he escaped out and fled to Wales.”

Henry offered a great reward for his recapture, but Oldcastle remained at large four years. Then “the Lord Powis, whether for the greediness of the money or for hatred of the true doctrine of Christ, seeking all manner of ways how to play the part of Judas, and outwardly pretending great favor, at length obtained his bloody purpose and most cowardly and wretchedly took him and brought him bound up to London” (wrote John Foxe).

On December 15, 1418, Oldcastle was taken to Smithfield in London, where martyrs were killed, and “hanged up by the middle in chains of iron, and so consumed alive in the fire, praising the name of God so long as his life lasted.”

By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God. … So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God. But that’s not all! We gladly suffer. (Romans 5:1,3)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec. 15.


340Eusebius (not to be confused with historian Eusebius of Caesarea) became the first bishop of Vercelli, Italy, receiving his consecration from Pope Julius I. He was influential in having the Nicene Creed restored throughout the empire.

1543 – Geneva’s Council recommended Sebastian Castellio’s appointment as preacher. He is one of the few Genevan clergies who visited plague victims during the epidemic that year.

1791The United States Bill of Rights is ratified, guaranteeing freedom of religion among other liberties.

1870 African-American Methodists from eight local conferences met in Jackson, Tennessee. They founded the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church.

2011 – Saudi Arabians arrested thirty-five Ethiopian Christians for praying in Jeddeh but charged them with meeting in a mixed company of men and women. They stripped the women and searched their body cavities. The Christians were imprisoned for several months until deported back to Ethiopia.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.