- He was a minister of the Six-Principle Baptist Church, which later became the faith of the first church founded in Rhode Island and the first Baptist church organized in America, the oldest First Baptist Church of Providence, 1638. Being a no-conformist of the radical wing, the separatists, he was pesecuted, and twice burned for his religious views, 9 March 1612 and 11 April 1612. On the last date, he was by order of James I, burned to death in Manchuet Place, Lichfield, in Staffordshire, being the last of the religious martyrs in England to be so destroyed.
© 1997, Sam Behling
My 10g grandfather, Edward Wightman, has the rather unenvied distinction of being the last of the religious martyrs in England to be burned at the stake. He was a Separatist (the same religion as the Mayflower passengers followed), which did not go over well with the Church of England, the ONLY accepted religion of England back in the early 1600's.
Preaching his "heresies" quickly got the attention of the authorities, including King James I himself, who issued the order for his execution. On the appointed date, Edward was taken to the stake, tied up, and set on fire. Immediately he started screaming (can't imagine WHY) and shouting out unintelligible words. For some strange reason, the townsfolk and the sheriffs got it into their heads that he was recanting his religious beliefs, so they quickly doused out the flames, untied him and cooled him off.
Once released, he continued to preach his heresies even more strongly than before, so a few days later they tied him back to the stake, and THIS time burned him to ashes. [One of my friends upon hearing this story dubbed him my "twice-baked" ancestor.]
The following is a copy of the written order issued by the King for the death of Edward Wightman. The language alone is worth a giggle.
"The King to the sheriff of our city of Litchfield, Greeting. Whereas, the reverend father in Christ, Richard, by divine providence, of Coventry and Litchfield, Bishop, hath signified unto us, that he judicially proceeding, according to the exigence of ecclesiastical canons and of the laws and customs of this kingdon of Burton-upon-Trent, in the diocese of Coventry and Litchfield, of and upon the wicked heresies of Ebion, Cirinthus, Valintian, Arrius, Macedonius, Simon, Magnus, of Manes, Manichees, Photinus, and of the Anabaptists, and other arch-heriticks; and moreover of other cursed opinions, belched by the instance of Satan, excogitated and here to forunheard of; the aforesaid Edward Wightman appearing before the aforesaid reverend father, and other divines and learned in the law, assisting him in judgment, the aforesaid wicked crimes, heresies and other detestable blasphemies and errors, stubbornly and perniciously, knowingly and maliciously, and with a hardened heart, published, defended and dispersed, by definite sentence of the said divine father, with the consent of divines, learned in the law aforesaid, justly, lawfully and canonically, against the said Edward Wightman in that part brought, stands adjudged and pronounced a heretick, and therefore as a diseased sheep out of the flock of the Lord, lest our subjects he do infect by his contagion, he hath decreed to be cast out, and cut off. Whereas, the holy mother church hath not further in this part what it ought more to do and prosecute, the same reverend father hath left to our secular power the same Edward Wightman as a blasphemous and condemned heritick to be punished with the condign punishment as by the letters patent of the aforesaid reverend father, the bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, in this behalf thereupon made, as certified unto us in our Chancery. We, therefore, as the zealot of justice and the defender of the Catholick faith, and williing the holy church, and the rights and liberties of the same, and the Catholick faith to maintain and defend, and such like heresies and errors everywhere, so convict and condemn to punish with consign punishment, holding that such a heritick in the aforesaid form convicted and condemned, according to the customs and laws of this our Kingdom of England in this part accustomed, out to be burned with fire. We command thee that thou cause the said Edward Wightman, being in thy custody, to be committed to fire in some publick and open place below the city aforesaid, for the cause aforesaid before people; and the same Edward Wightman in the same fire cause really to be burned in destation of said crime, and for the manifest example of other Christians, that they may not fall into the same crime. And this no ways omit, under the peril that shall follow thereon."
(2) Edward Wightman, born on 20 December 1566 in Burbage, Leicestershire, England, died 9 March 1612 in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. He married Francis Darbye.
Edward was a minister of the Six-Principle Baptist Church, which later became the faith of the first church founded in Rhode Island and the first Baptist church organized in America, the old First Baptist Church of Providence, founded 16hich Roger Williams was founder.
Being a non-conformist of the radical wing, the Separatists, he was destined to be persecuted. In the Spring of 1611 he was condemned to burn at the stake in the following Spring on the 9th March 1612, this through awarrant issued by Ki. The drawing at right is an artist's rendering of Edward's burning in the Market Square.
Edward was reportedly the last person punished in such a manor in England.
Doctrines & Beliefs of Edward Wightman
as drawn from the Commission & Warrant for his execution
That there is not the trinity of persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in the unity of the Deity.
That Jesus Christ is not the true natural Son of God, perfect God, and of the same substance, eternity and majesty with the Father in respect of his Godhead.
That Jesus Christ is only man and a mere creature, and not both God and man in one person.
That Christ, our Savior, took not human flesh of the substance of the Virgin Mary his Mother; and that, that Promise, 'The Seed of the Woman shall break the serpent's head,' was not fulfilled in Christ.
That the person of the Holy Ghost is not God coequal, coeternal, and coessential with the Father and the Son.
That the three creeds, The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, and Athanasius's Creed, are the heresies of the Nicolaitanes.
That he the said Edward Wightman is that prophet spoken of in the eighteenth of Deuteronomy in these words, 'I will raise them up a prophet,' &c. And that, that place of Isaiah, 'I alone, have trodden the winepress;' and that place, 'Whose fan is in his hand,' are proper and personal to him, the said Edward Wightman.
And that he the said Wightman is that person of the Holy Ghost spoken of in the Scriptures; and the Comforter spoken of in the 16th of St. John's Gospel.
And that those words of our Savior Christ of the Sin of Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, are meant of his person.
And that, that place, the fourth of Malachi, of Elias to come, is likewise meant of his person.
That the soul doth sleep in the sleep of the first death, as well as the body, and is mortal as touching the sleep of the first death, as the body is; and that the soul of our Savior Jesus Christ did sleep in that sleep of death as well as his body.
That the souls of the elect saints departed, are not members possessed of the triumphant Church in Heaven.
That the baptizing of infants is an abominable custom.
That there ought not to be in the church the use of the Lord's Supper to be celebrated in the Elements of breath and Wine; and the use of Baptism to be celebrated in the Element of Water; as they are now practiced in the Church of England; but that the use of Baptism is to be administered in water, only to converts of sufficient age of understanding, converted from infidelity to the faith.
That God hath ordained and sent him, the said Edward Wightman, to perform his part in the work of the Salvation of the world, to deliver it by his teaching, or admonition, from the heresy of the Nicolaitanes; as Christ was ordained and sent to save the world, and by his death to deliver it from sin, and to reconcile it to God.
And that Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the Church of England, but only in part.
(more -- see wife's notes)