The sun, being just a dot high in the afternoon sky, warmed my skin as I watched the guards lead a woman to the scaffold. Clouds blew in from Boston’s harbor obscuring the sun sending some welcome relief from the fierce heat. A stiff breeze picked up some paper trash that had gathered around the base of the platform whisking it up into the air twirling it around and around in front of the woman who was now standing at the bottom of the temporary stairs.
I was chained, scantily clad in rags, with seventy other slaves who had just been unloaded from the cargo pit of the tall wooden ship named Destiny. I watched the woman slowly climb the planked stairs, her hair tied back around her head, dressed in a simple cotton robe that fell below her ankles. A man with a bible walked besides her holding her arm and she did not seem distressed or frightened.
The sun was now completely covered by clouds, sending a chill up my spine, as a flock of sea gulls flying high above squawked as if they objected to what was about to take place. I could hear each step the woman took as she reached the top of the hangman’s platform. Then I heard the pastor begin to speak to her.
“Mary, this is your last chance if you will only repent of your errors you will be released.” said John Wilson her former pastor at the first church of Boston and one of the Puritan ministers who had brought charges against her.
“No, I cannot, for in obedience to the will of the Lord God I came, and in His will I will abide faithful to the death.” replied Mary as she looked into the eyes of her estranged minister.
I watched in horror as her robe was bound around her ankles, a canvass bag and a rope was placed over her head. The hangman pushed the handle and a loud crack was heard, the crowd winced and many turned away as her body came to a sudden stop from the short drop. Many women were sobbing uncontrollably while several men around the scaffold were praising God for his swift judgment as another group of Quakers dropped to their knees asking God to forgive them and welcome Mary into His presence.
What was this Quaker woman’s crime, you might be wondering, and so it should be stated here what motivated and drove these Puritans to hang a woman who simply wanted to worship God in a way she felt was right: She worshiped in a manner most agreeable to her own conscience, she refused to pay a tithe, she was against wars and fighting, she would not take any oath, she refused to pay her share of church repairs and new building projects, she would not remove her hat to show respect for a man, her use of “thee” and “thou” when addressing a single person and her missionary zeal in publishing material that she believed to be the truth.
The story of Mary Dyer is true and part of the historical record. She was hung on June 1st, 1660 in Boston for her outspoken beliefs and her determination to tell others the truth. It is hard to believe that things like this took place in America, that people would hung just because of the color of their skin, religious beliefs or failure to pay their allegiance to the crown but it often did.
In the book of Revelation, chapter two, the church at Smyrna was known as the suffering church. It represented a time in church history from 100 A.D. to 314 A.D. when over five million Christians were martyred. The gruesome accounts of being thrown into the coliseum with hungry animals, stoned to death, placed on the rack and pulled apart, red hot metal plates placed on the body and basically anything you can imagine was used to kill Christians.
Polycarp, a student of the apostle John and a bishop of the church at Smyrna, was burned to death in the amphitheater. When the flames would not touch his body he was thrust through with a sword. The fact is Jesus promised us in this world we would have tribulation but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.
This is good news. There is life after death says the One who was dead and now lives forever more! Jesus is the only way to the Father God and all you have to do is believe, have faith and you will be saved Romans 10:8-10. Most of Jesus’ apostles went to a martyr’s death. It was the fact of seeing Jesus’ resurrection that strengthened their faith as they were martyred for their faith.