George Marsh's Footprint

At Smithills Hall near Bolton is a Protestant relic. Like its Roman Catholic equivalents, I doubt its truthfulness, its provenance and its utility, though I doubt not the man who owned the foot which allegedly made it. This footprint in the stone is said to have been left by George Marsh, a godly clergyman at the time of Bloody Mary, who was brought before Justice Broughton on charges of heresy. So determined was Master Marsh to not revert to Rome that he stamped his foot, which is said to have left a clear impression on the stone flags.

Firstly, the interview was held upstairs, not in a corridor, which is where the supposed footprint has been preserved. Secondly, when his body was being burned in Chester by order of that city’s bishop, it offered no hint of supernatural strength; it combusted and conflagrated much like any other. I suspect that subsequent owners of the house wished to have a reminder of the great man’s association, and attributed some foot-shaped groove to the martyr’s memory.

The idiom of ‘putting one’s foot down’ comes from the previous century, and possibly originated in a passenger’s stamping his foot on a carriage floor to request the driver bring the vehicle to a stop. Impressed flagstones aside, George Marsh put his foot down when it came to regressing his faith and returning to the idolatrous religion of his past. For such intransigence, he spent over a year in gaol and died a grisly death. I have no doubt, however, that he received fair greeting and warm welcome on the other side.

I marvel at how adept modern Christians are at molding their faith to the world’s expectations. The world taught that the cosmos was made by a random explosion; the Church agreed that this was correct. The world taught that Adam and Eve were not real people; the Church agreed that this was correct. The world taught that miracles could not possibly happen; the Church agreed that this was correct. The world taught that sexual relationships between any consenting adults were to be celebrated; the Church agreed that this was correct.

Like George Marsh, it is time to put our foot down.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:14