By John Foxe
(author of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs)
Mr. Nicholas Burton, a citizen of London, was dwelling in the city of Cadiz, Spain, where he was engaged in the business of trading merchandise. On November 5, 1560, there came into his lodging a Judas, or, as they term them, a familiar of the fathers of Inquisition; asking for Nicholas Burton, he feigned that he had a letter to deliver into his own hands. This gained him access to Burton’s presence, but having no letter to deliver to him, the familiar invented another lie, and said he would like to send freight bound for London in such ships as the said Nicholas Burton might have available; if indeed there was room to be had. He said this partly to know where he loaded his goods that they might attach them, and chiefly to protract the time until the sergeant of the Inquisition might come and apprehend Nicholas Burton; which they did forthwith.
Burton perceived that they would not be able to charge him that he had written, spoken, or done anything there in that country against the ecclesiastical or temporal laws of the same realm. He boldly asked them what they had to lay to his charge that they did so arrest him, and bade them to declare the cause, and he would answer them. Notwithstanding they answered nothing, but commanded him with threatening words to hold his peace and not speak one word to them.
And so they carried him to the filthy common prison of the town of Cadiz where he remained in irons fourteen days amongst thieves. All which time he instructed the poor prisoners in the Word of God, according to the good talent which God had given him, and also in the Spanish tongue to utter the same, that in that short space he had persuaded several of the Spanish prisoners to embrace the Word of God and to reject their popish traditions.
When this became known unto the officers of the Inquisition, they conveyed him laden with irons from thence to a city called Seville, into a more cruel prison called Triana. There the fathers of the Inquisition proceeded against him secretly according to their accustomed cruel tyranny, and threatened him to never write nor speak to any of his nation: so that to this day it is unknown who was his accuser.
On the twentieth of December, they brought Nicholas Burton, with a great number of other prisoners who professed the true Christian religion, to a place where the inquisitors sat in judgment.
His tongue was forced out of his mouth with a cloven stick fastened upon it that he should not utter his conscience and faith to the people. He was set with other Englishmen and Frenchmen, as well as Spaniards, upon a scaffold over against the Inquisition, where their sentences and judgments were read and pronounced against them. And immediately after the sentences were given, they were carried from there to the place of execution outside the city, where they most cruelly burned them, for whose constant faith, God is praised.
In the flames of that fire, Nicholas had so cheerful a countenance, embracing death with all patience and gladness that the tormentors and enemies who stood by, said that the devil had his soul before he came to the fire; and therefore they said his senses of feeling were past him. To read this and other accounts of Christian martyrs, see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. This is also available in Kindle, Nook, PDF, and e-book.)