There but for the grace of God go I
This quotation, which is often used as an aphorism to celebrate being spared from some misfortune or other is attributed to the 16th century Protestant clergyman John Bradford. According to tradition, he was a prisoner in the Tower of London at the time of Mary I’s persecution of Protestants (1553-1558) and when he saw other Protestants being led off to their death, he is reputed to have actually said, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.” His celebration was short-lived, however, because he was burned at the stake on 1 July 1553. Bradford may have been paraphrasing something similar from the Bible that was said by St Paul in I Corinthians, 15: 8-10 “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.” A more modern version of the same concept is ‘there but for fortune may go you or I’ which are the lyrics of a song written in 1963 by Phil Ochs entitled ‘There but for fortune’ with which Joan Baez hit the charts in 1964.