Today we commemorate the former Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud , the main religious advisor to King Charles the Martyr, who though not a Saint, was martyred for reforming the Church with its catholic tradition in mind and for opposing the Puritans.
Laud didn’t oppose the Puritans because he opposed true Christianity, but rather because he believed that the true Christian faith of England was a succession of the early church of Saint Alban and Edward the Confessor, a successor to the mediaeval church of Thomas Becket and Hugh of Lincoln and indeed a successor to the church of Henry VIII... he believed that rather than destroying our heritage and past as though it never happened, in the mistaken belief that such tradition somehow diminishes Scripture, we should cherish it and learn from it as a complement to Scriptural truth.
In a time of open rebellion he boldly declared the unity of Church and State, and urged the people to recognise the King as the Supreme Governor of the Church in England. He called the people to repentance and reminded those in Holy Orders (Deacon, Priest and Bishop) of their Godly duties, and he reminded people of the centrality of the Eucharist in the Christian’s life. It was this emphasis on the Eucharist, which would prove to cause men to conspire against Laud, because he asserted that the service should be treated with reverence and respect. By moving the table back to the east wall in churches and by setting up altar rails and by supporting the wearing of the surplice the Puritans felt he was too close to Rome and someone to be opposed.
Though in serving those prominent within Puritan circles with harsh sentences for non-conformity Laud did not do so on the basis of social standing, rather his role was to safeguard the church and he did so regardless of the status or wealth of the defendant and he only did so only after feeling that all reasoning with such men was useless and legal action was the last resort. The idea of an Archbishop judging those who break the law of the church in legal courts may seem strange, but such things were indicative of the times in which he lived.
Realising the Parliament had been usurped by a dictator in the form of Cromwell, Laud campaigned to have the Church separated from the puritan politics of the long parliament which sought to tear down the Church and remake Christianity in their own image.
For defending the rights of the ordinary lay man in spite of the rich landowners and parliamentarians, and for being an honest and devout Anglican, who stood in defence of the historic Christian faith and the King of England, Laud was condemned by Cromwell and his cohorts in 1640, and foretelling the fate of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England King Charles I, was martyred on this day (January) in 1645
His final words delivered upon the scaffold, prayerfully directed to the God in whom he loved, trusted and devoted his life to, were: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like thy servant William Laud, we may live in thy fear, die in thy favor, and rest in thy peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.