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THE CHRISTIAN GUARDIAN,
CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAGAZINE.
MEMORIALS OF THE ENGLISH MARTYRS.-No. XII.
BY THE REV. CHARLES B. TAYLER, M.A.
ROBERT FERRAR, BISHOP OF ST. DAVID'S, MARTYR.
THE most sad and shameful day that ever dawned upon this fallen earth was the most glorious day that her children ever saw. A still more glorious day is yet to come, for He who came in deep humility, and expired under the hands of his murderers, and departed in that human body in which he had yielded to death, and in which he had, by yielding, conquered death, He will come again in His glory to sit upon the throne of his glory, and to take possession of His kingdom, and to reign in righteousness. He will then come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe; and then will be the day of perfect glory for the church triumphant. Still that sad day of unspeakable suffering and shame and death, was the most glorious day this earth has ever yet seen. It was the day of glory to the church militant on earth-the day on which the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls became the great martyr of the church, and this truth was propounded in the most affecting and astounding way to the world, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." For He who then agonized and bled was God as well as man -God manifest in the flesh-the foundation, rock, and the chief corner stone of His house, which is the church.
It was in like manner a glorious day for the reformed church established in this country, when many of her first bishops became her martyrs when the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops of London, and of Gloucester, and of Worcester, went forth in meek and resolute spirit to the stake and to the flames, choosing the reproach of 1845.
Christ, and preferring rather to yield up their lives than to deny the faith. Thus they kept the truth which God had committed to them, pure and unadulterated, and thus the blood of our martyrs was indeed the seed of our church.
Wales had also her martyr-bishop, and we are now journeying, my reader, from the eastern county of Kent, and the celebrated city of Canterbury, to the western shores of our Island, to the town of Caermarthen, where the honoured name of Robert Ferrar, Bishop of St. David's, has given a mournful interest to the spot where he suffered with unshaken faith and constancy for the love of Christ, and the pure creed of the gospel.
I turn over the books of tourists among the wild mountain-scenery and the lovely vallies of Wales; but I look in vain in those volumes which I have seen for the name of the martyr-bishop, and for a memorial of his death. There is a groping for facts and narratives among the rubbish of old legendary histories, and an accurate detail of the improvements of modern times; an account of promenades and ball-rooms and races; but not a word of Bishop Ferrar's trial and burning at Caermarthen, nor of the imprisonment and the martyrdom of Rawlins White at Cardiff, and at Chepstow.
It was in this market place of Caermarthen, on the south side of that spot, where the high cross once stood, that the good Bishop, having been condemned and degraded by his false judge and accusers, was led forth to execution at the stake, and nobly gave up his life for the truth and the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But let us turn aside from this busy throng of buyers and sellers crowding the market place, to the venerable church, where the Bishop underwent those final examinations which issued in his death. Though now almost in the centre of the town, this church formerly stood without the walls of the ancient Caermarthen. It is said to have been once a fine specimen of the early English style of architecture, and was built in the form of a cross; but it has been altered and modernized, and of the old building, only the chancel, the nave, and the south transept are standing, and even here these modern windows have greatly changed the character of the edifice.
At another time you may hear the story of Sir Rhys ab Thomas, whose tomb is the most noted of the ancient monuments of this church, and who fought under the Earl of Richmond at the battle of Bosworthfield, and is said to have slain Richard the third with his own hand, and was made Knight of the Garter on the spot. It is but very lately that a tablet has been put up here to the memory of the martyrbishop of Wales.
Come, we will leave the town, and find some quiet spot where we may discourse together of that blessed man of God, Master Ferrar. I am a stranger here, but I have heard much of the beauties of the vale of the Towy. We have already caught some fine views of that noble river from the town, but if I mistake not, there is a pleasant lane leading from the high road which is now before us, and which will bring us to the point I wish to find. The sun is still high in the heavens, and the ascent is steep; but the thick foliage of the hedgerow-trees will shade us from its beams. Yes, this must be the lane, it leads only to the little church of Llangannor. Now we have gained the