112. FURTHER PERSECUTIONS OF WICLIFF'S FOLLOWERS
THE young prince Henry the Sixth, being under the age of one year, after the death of his father, succeeded in his reign and kingdom of England, A. D. 1422, and in the eighth year was crowned at Westminster; and the second year after was crowned also at Paris, Henry, bishop of Winchester, cardinal, being present at them both, and reigned thirty-eight years, and then was deposed by Edward the Fourth, as hereafter (Christ willing) shall be declared in his time. In the first year of his reign was burned the constant witness-bearer and testis of Christ's doctrine, William Taylor, a priest, under Henry Chichesley, archbishop of Canterbury. Of this William Taylor I read, that in the days of Thomas Arundel he was first apprehended, and abjured. Afterward, in the days of Hcnry Chichesley, and about the year of our Lord 1421, which was a year before his burning, the said William Taylor appeared again in the convocation before the archbishop, being brought by the bishop of Worcester, being complained of to have taught at Bristol these articles following:
"First, That whosoever hangeth any Scripture about his neck, taketh away the honour due only to God, and giveth it to the devil.
"Secondly, That no human person is to be worshipped, but only God is to be adored.
"Thirdly, That the saints are not to be worshipped or invocated."
Upon these articles the said William Taylor being examined, denied that he did preach or hold them in way of defending them, but only did commune and talk upon the same, especially upon the second and third articles, only in way of reasoning, and for argument sake. And to justify his opinion to be true in that which he did hold, he brought out of his bosom a paper or libel written, wherein were contained certain articles, with the testimonies .of the doctors alleged, and exhibited the same unto the archbishop. Who then being bid to stand aside, the archbishop consulting together with the bishops and other prelates what was to be done in the matter, delivered the writings unto Master John Castle, and John Rikinghale, the two vice-chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge, and to John Lang-don, monk of Canterbury; who, advising with themselves and with other divines, about the articles and allegations, on the Monday following presented the said articles of William Taylor to the archbishops and prelates, as erroneous and heretical. Whereupon William Taylor, being called before them, in conclusion was contented to revoke the same, and for his penance was by them condemned to perpetual prison.
Notwithstanding, through favour they were contented that he should be released from his prison endurance, in case he would put in sufficient surety in the king's chancery, and swear that he shall never hold nor favour any such opinions hereafter. And thus the said William Taylor, appointed to appear the next Wednesday at Lambeth before the archbishop, to take his absolution from his long excommunication during the time from Thomas Arundel, appeared again before him; where he, laying aside his arunlousa, that is, his cloak, his cap, and stripped unto his doublet, kneeled at the feet of the archbishop; who then standing up, and having a rod in his hand, began the psalm Miserere, &c., his chaplains answering the second verse. After that was said the collect, Deus cuiproprium, &c., with certain other prayers. And so taking an oath of him, the archbishop committed him to the custody of the bishop of Worcester, to whom power and authority was permitted to release him, upon the conditions aforesaid. And thus was William Taylor for that time absolved, being enjoined, notwithstanding, to appear at the next convocation, whensoever it should be, before the said archbishop or his successor that should follow him.
In the mean time, while William Taylor was thus in the custody of the bishop of Worcester, there passed certain writings between him and one Thomas Smith, priest, at Bristol, in the which writings William Taylor replied against the said Thomas, concerning the question of worshipping of saints. Upon the occasion of which reply, being brought to the hands of the bishop of Worcester, William Taylor began anew to be troubled, and was brought again before the public convocation of the clergy by the said bishop of Worcester, to answer unto his writings. This was A. D. 1422, the eleventh day of February. Unto the which convocation the said William being presented, his writings were read to him; which he would not, nor could not, deny to be of his own hand-writing.
The tenor and effect of whose writing only tended to prove, that every petition and prayer for any supernatural gift ought to be directed to God alone, and to no creature. Albeit in this his writing he did not utterly deny that it was lawful in any respect to pray to saints, (and bringeth for the same St. Thomas Aquinas,) but only in respect of that worship which is called Cultus latriæ. And further, so prosecuteth his mind herein, that he seemeth little or nothing to differ from the superstition of the papists, as most plainly appeareth by his own words, saying, Nunquam tamen negavi, aut negare intendo, merita aut sanctorum sufragia tam beatorum quam viantium, tam vivis, quam marquis ad hoc dispositis, quantum possunt, suffragari, vel proficere quia hoc est elicibile ex Scriptura, quæ non fallit, et ex consona ratione, &c. And moreover he inferreth the example of Moses, who prayed unto God, alleging the merits of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which were dead, &c. And furthermore, passing from the testimony of Jerome, and alleging the example of Stephen, saith, Quod nunc magis exauditur pro veneratoribus suis, quam tunc exauditus est pro lapidatoribus. And at length he cometh to this conclusion, proving by St. Austin, in this manner: "And therefore, lest we run about in circles with the wicked, and with the idolaters of the Old Testament, and never come to the centre, it is wholesome and good counsel that we follow the mind of the apostle, saying, Let us resort with boldness unto the throne of his grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in time of opportune help," &c.
Thus much out of the aforesaid writing of William Taylor I have excerpted, to the intent that the indifferent reader, using his judgment herein, may see how little matter was in this, wherefore he should be condemned by the papists. And yet, notwithstanding, the same writing, being delivered by the archbishop to the four orders of friars of London, to be examined, was found erroneous and heretical in these points:
"First, That every prayer which is a petition of some supernatural gift or free gift, is to be directed only to God.
"2. Item, That prayer is to he directed to God alone.
"3. Item, To pray to any creature is to commit idolatry."
4. Also, another opinion there was much like to the other, to make up the fourth: so that although all these opinions agreed in one, yet to make up a number, every order of the four sorts of friars, thought to find out some matter to offer up to the archbishop against him, lest one order should seem more cunning or pregnant, in finding out more than could another; or else, perchance, lest any of them should seem to favour the party, in bringing nothing against him, as the rest had done.
When the Saturday was come, which was the twentieth day of February, upon the which day, the four orders were appointed to declare their censure upon the articles in the Chapter-house of Paul's, first appeareth Friar Tille, for the black friars, then Friar Winchelsey, then Friar Lowe, after Friar Ashwell, each friar for his order severally bringing his heresy, as is above specified.
Thus the verdict of these four orders being given up to the archbishop, and severally, each order coming in with his heresy, which was the twentieth day of February; hereupon cometh down a writ from the king, directed to the lord mayor and sheriffs of London, dated the first day of March, the first year of his reign. The copy whereof remaineth in the records of the Tower. Whereupon the said William Taylor, condemned as a relapse, first was degraded, and after to be burned, and so was committed to the secular power. Who then being had to Smithfield, the first day of March, with Christian constancy, after long imprisonment, there did consummate his martyrdom, 1422.
The manner of his degrading was all one with the degrading of John Huss before; for the papists use but one form for all men. First, degrading them from priesthood, by taking from them the chalice and paten. From deaconship, by taking from them the Gospel Book and Tunicle. From subdeaconship, by taking- from them the Epistle Book and Tunicle. From acoluteship, by taking from them the cruet and candlestick. From an exorcist, by taking away the Book of Exorcisms or Gradual. From the sextonship, by taking away the church-door key and surplice. And likewise from Benet, in taking away the surplice, and first tonsure, &c. All which they orderly accomplished upon this godly martyr, before his burning.
Illustration -- A Martyr Being Prepared for Burning At The Stake
John Florence, a turner.
John Florence, a turner, dwelling in Shelton, in the diocese of Norwich, was attached for that he held and taught these heresies hereunder written, (as they called them,) contrary to the determination of the Church of Rome.
"Imprimis, That the pope and cardinals have no power to make or constitute any laws.
"Item, That there is no day to be kept holy, but only the Sunday, which God hath hallowed.
"Item, That men ought to fast no other time, but of the quatuor temporum.
"Item, That images are not to be worshipped, neither that the people ought to set up any lights before them in the churches, neither to go on pilgrimage, neither to offer for the dead, or with women that are purified.
"Item, That curates should not take the tithes of their parishioners, but that such tithes should be divided amongst the poor parishioners.
"Item, That all such as swear by their life or power shall be damned, except they repent."
Upon Wednesday, being the second day of August, in the year of our Lord 1424, the said John Florence personally appeared before William Bernam, chancellor to William, bishop of Norwich, where he, proceeding against him, objected the first article touching the power of the pope and cardinals; to which article the said John Florence answered in this manner; "If the pope lived uprightly as Peter lived, he hath power to make laws; otherwise I believe he hath no power." But being afterward threatened by the judge, he acknowledged that he had erred, and submitted himself to the correction of the church, and was abjured, taking an oath, that from that time forward he should not hold, teach, preach, or willingly defend, any error or heresy contrary to the determination of the Church of Rome; neither maintain, help, or aid any that shall teach or hold any such errors or heresies, either privily or apertly; and for his offence in this behalf done he was enjoined this penance following:
Three Sundays in a solemn procession, in the cathedral church of Norwich, he should be disciplined before all the people. The like also should be done about his parish church of Shelton, three other several Sundays, he being bareheaded, barefooted, and barenecked, after the manner of a public penitentiary, his body being covered with a canvass shirt, and canvass breeches, carrying in his hand a taper of a pound weight; and that done he was dismissed.
Illustration -- A Martyr Being Flogged Through The Streets
Richard Reheard of Earsham, in the diocese of Norwich.
Richard Belward of Earsham, in the diocese of Norwich, was accused for holding and teaching these errors and opinions hereunder written, contrary to the determination of the Church of Rome.
"Imprimis, That ecclesiastical ministers, and ordinaries, have no power to excommunicate, nei.ther can excommunicate. And albeit that a bishop do excommunicate any man, God doth absolve him.
"Item, That he held the erroneous opinions and conclusions, that Sir John Oldcastle held when he was in prison, and affirmed that Sir John Oldcastle was a true catholic man, and falsely condemned, and put to death without any reasonable cause.
"Item, That such as go on pilgrimage, offering to images made of wood and stone, are excommunicate, because they ought to offer to the quick and not to the dead; and that the ecclesiastical ministers, that is to say, the curates, do sell God upon Easter-day, when they receive offerings of such as should communicate, before they do minister the sacrament unto them.
"Item, That he counselled divers women, that they should not offer in the church for the dead, neither with women that were purified.
"Item, That he blamed divers of his neighbours that refused his doctrine, saying unto them, 'Truly ye are fools that deny to learn the doctrine of my sect, for your neighbours which are of my sect are able to confound and vanquish all other that are of your sect.'
"Item, That the saints which are in heaven ought in no case to be prayed unto, but only God.
"Item, That the said Richard keepeth schools of Lollardy in the English tongue, in the town of Ditchingham, and a certain parchment-maker bringeth him all the books containing that doctrine from London."
The fifth day of July, 1424, the said Richard Belward was brought before John, bishop of Norwich, sitting in place of judgment, where the aforesaid articles were objected against the said Richard, which he there denied; whereupon the bishop appointed him another day to purge himself, the Monday next after the fcast of St. Margaret; upon which day, being the twenty-fourth of July, in the year aforesaid, he appeared again before the bishop, and brought with him nine of his neighbours, to purge him upon those articles, and there did solemnly purge himself. And afterward, forasmuch as the said bishop suspected the said Richard Belward greatly of Lollardy, he commanded him there presently to swear upon the evangelists, that from that day forward he should not wittingly preach, teach, or defend any error or heresy, contrary to the Church of Rome, neither aid, assist, favour, or maintain, privily or apertly, any manner of person or persons that should hold or maintain the said errors or heresies. In the presence of Master William Bernam, John Wadden, Robert Serle, and J. Berne, esquire, and other of his neighbours which came unto his purgation.
In like manner John Goddesell, of Ditchingham, parchment-maker, was detected and accused upon the same articles, and thereupon brought before the bishop, where he, denying them, purged himself by his neighbours, as Richard Belward before had done, being sworn also in like manner as he was, and so was dismissed and set at liberty, until the year of our Lord 1428, when he was again apprehended, accused, and abjured, as shall be more at large declared in the history, when we come to that year. Sir Hugh Pie, also, chaplain of Ludney, in the diocese of Norwich, was likewise accused and brought before the bishop of Norwich, the fifth day of July, A. D. 1424, for holding of these opinions following:
"That the people ought not to go on pilgrimage.
"Item, That the people ought not to give alms, but only unto such as beg at their doors.
"Item, That the image of the cross, and other images, are not to be worshipped. And thatthe said Hugh had cast the cross of Bromehold into the fire to be burned, which 'he took from one John Welgate, of Ludney."
Which articles, as is aforesaid, being objected against him, he utterly dcnied; whereupon he had a day appointed to purge himself by the witness of three laymen and three priests: that so done, he was sworn, as the other before, and so dismissed.
After this, in the year of our Lord 1428, King Henry the Sixth sent down most cruel letters of commission unto John Exeter and Jacolet Germaine, keeper of the castle of Colchester, for the apprehending of Sir William White, priest, and others suspected of heresies, the tenor whereof hereafter ensueth:
The copy of the king's letters, directed to John Exeter and Jacolet Germaine, keeper of the castle of Colchester, for the apprehending of Sir William White, priest, and other (as they called them) Lollards.
"Henry, by the grace of God, king of England and of France, lord of Ireland, to his well-beloved John Exeter, and Jacolet Germaine, keeper of the castle of Colchester, health.
"Ye shall understand that we, fully trusting unto your fidelity and circumspections, have appointed you jointly and severally to take and arrest William White, priest, and Thomas, late chaplain of Setling, in the county of Norfolk, and William Northampton, priest, and all other, whatsoever they be, that are suspected of heresy or Lollardy, wheresoever they may be found, within the liberties or without, and straightway, being so taken, to send them unto our next gaol or prison, until such time as we shall have taken other order for their delivery: and therefore we straitly command you, that ye diligently attend about the premises, and fulfil the same in form aforesaid. Also we charge and command all and singular justices of peace, mayors, sheriffs, bailiffs, constables, and all other our faithful officers, by the tenor of these presents, that they do assist, aid, and counsel you, and every of you, in the execution of the premises, as it shall be comely for them. In witness whereof we have caused these our letters patent to be made. Witness myself at Westminster, the sixth of July, the sixth year of our reign."
By virtue of which commission we find in old monuments, that within short space after John Exeter, which was appointed one of the commissioners, attached six persons in the town of Bungay, in the diocese of Norwich, and committed them to William Day and William Roe, constables of the town of Bungay, to be sent within ten days following, under safe custody, unto the castle of Norwich. Whose names, through the antiquity of the monument, were so defaced, that we could not attain to the perfect knowledge of them all; only three names partly remained in the book to be read, which were these:
John Wadden of Tenterden, in the county of Kent; Bartholomew, monk of Earsham, in the county of Norfolk, cornleader, a married man; William Scuts.
These three were in the custody of the duke of Norfolk, at his castle of Fremingham.
Besides these, we also find in the said old monuments within the diocese of Norfolk and Suffolk, specially in the towns of Beccles, Earsham, and Ludney, a great number both of men and women to have been vexed and cast into prison, and after their abjuration brought to open shame in churches and markets, by the bishop of the said diocese, called William, and his chancellor, William Bernham, John Exeter being the register therein: so that within the space of three or four years, that is, from the year 1428 unto the year 1431, about the number of a hundred and twenty men and women were examined, and sustained great vexation for the profession of the Christian faith; of whom some were only taken upon suspicion, for eating of meats prohibited on vigil days, who, upon their purgation made, escaped more easily away, and with less punishment, whose names here follow subscribed.
The names of them that were taken and examined upon suspicion of heresy.
Robert Skirving of Harlstone.
Iohn Terry of Ersham.
Iohn Abtre of Ersham.
Iohn Middleton of Halvergate.
Iohn Wayde of Ersham.
Richard Clarke of Sething.
Thomas White of Bedingham.
Master Robert Beete of Berry.
Richard Page of Clipsly.
The other were more cruelly handled, and some whom we do specially find mention made of these of them were put to death and burned, among I three:
Father Abraham of Colchester.
William White, priest.
John Wadden, priest.
The residue, for a great number of good men and women were forced to abjure sustaining such cruel penance as pleased then the said bishop and his chancellor to lay upon them. The names of which, both men and women, here follow together in this brief catalogue to be seen.
Richard Fletcher of Beckles.
Iohn Rene of Beckles.
Baldwine Cooper of Beckles.
Nicholas Canon of Eye.
Iohn Pet. M. Moones servant
Isabel Chaplaine of Martham.
William Marsh of Ersham.
Iohn Cuppet, vicar of Tunstall.
Iohn Goodwin of Ersham.
Sir Hugh Pye, priest.
Henry Latchcold of Ersham.
Henry Broode of Ersham.
Rich. Horne of Ersham.
Iohn Belward, senior, of Ersham.
Iohn Belward, junior, of Ersham.
Iohn Spire of Bungay.
Rob. Cole of Turming.
The herd of Shepemedow.
Isabel Davy of Costes.
Sibyl, wife of Iohn Godesel o Dicham f
Avis the wife of Thomas Moone and her daughter.
Iohn Pyry of Bartham.
Thomas Burrell and his wife.
The Clerk of Ludney.
Richard Clerke of Sething.
Katherine, the wife of William Wright.
William Collin of Southereke.
Rich. King of Windeham.
Tho. Love of Rokeland.
Richard Knobbing of Beckles.
Rich. Grace of Beckles.
Iohn Eldon of Beckles.
Rob. Grigs of Martham.
Wil. Calls, priest.
Tho. Pert. priest.
Iacob Bodhome, and Margaret his wife.
Iohn Manning of Marton.
Iohn Culling of Beemster.
Rich. Fletcher of Beckles, and Matild his wife
Rob. Canel, priest.
William Hardy of Mundham.
Iohn Eldon of Beckles.
These forenamed persons and soldiers of Christ, being much beaten with the cares and troubles of those days, although they were constrained to relent and abjure, that is, to protest otherwise with their tongues than their hearts did think, partly through correction, and partly through infirmity, being as yet but new-trained soldiers in God's field, yet for their good will they bare unto the truth, although with their tongues they durst not express it, we have thought good that their names should not be suppressed, as well for other sundry causes, as specially for this, either to stop the mouths of malignant adversaries, or to answer to their ignorance, who, following rather blind affection than the true knowledge of times and antiquities, for lack of knowledge blame that they know not, accusing the true doctrine of the word of God for novelty, and carping the teachers thereof for new-broached brethren; who, if they did as well foresee times past, as they be unwilling to follow times now present, they should understand, as well by these stories as other before, how this doctrine of the grace of God, lacking no antiquity, hath, from time to time, continually sought to burst out, and in some places hath prevailed, although in most places, through tyranny, and the malice of men, Christ's proceedings have been suppressed and kept under from rising, so much as men's power and strength, joined with craft and subtlety, could labour to keep down the same; as here, by these good men of Norfolk and Suffolk, may well appear. For if the knowledge and the good towardness of those good men had had the like liberty of time, with the help of like authority, as we have now, and had not been restrained through the iniquity of time and tyranny of prelates, it had well appeared how old this doctrine would have been, which now they contemn and reject for the newness thereof; neither needed Bonner to have asked of Thomas Hawkes, and such other, where their church was for forty years ago, inasmuch as for forty years ago, and more, within the country of Norfolk and Suffolk, was then found such plenty of the same profession and like doctrine which we now profess. And thus much for the number and names of these persons.
Now as touching their articles which they did maintain and defend, first, this is to be considered, as I find it in the registers, such society and agreement of doctrine to be amongst them, that almost in their assertions and articles there was no difference; the doctrine. of the one was the doctrine of all the other: what their articles were, partly it is showed in the leaf before, and partly here followeth to be declared more at large.
Although it is to be thought concerning these articles, that many of them either were falsely objected against them, or not truly reported of the notaries, according as the common manner is of these adversaries, where the matter is good, there to make heresy, and of a little occasion to stir up great matter of slander, as they did before by the articles of John Wickliff and John Huss, and others more: so in like manner it seemeth they did in the articles of these men, either mistaking that which they said, or misunderstanding that which they meant, especially in these two articles concerning baptism and paying of tithes. For whereas they, speaking against the ceremonial and superfluous traditions then used in baptism, as salt, oil, spittle, taper, light, chrisomes, exorcising of the water, with such other, accounted them as no material thing in the holy institution of baptism, the notaries slanderously depraving this their assertion, to make it more odious to the ears of the people, so gave out the article, as though they should hold, that the sacrament of baptism used in the church by water is but a light matter and of small effect.
Again, in speaking against the christening the midwives use in private houses, against the opinion of such as think such children to be damned which depart before they come to their baptism, they are falsely reported, as though they should say, that Christian people be sufficiently baptized in the blood of Christ, and need no water, and that infants be sufficiently baptized if their parents be baptized before them. Which thing is so contrary to the manifest word, that it is not to be thought any to be so ignorant of the gospel, that ever would or did affirm the same.
Moreover, they thought, or said peradventure, that in certain cases tithes might be withholden from wicked priests sometime, and be conferred to better uses, to the behoof of the poor: therefore they are falsely slandered, as saying and affirming that no tithes were to be given to the ministers and curates of the churches.
And likewise for matrimony, wherein they are reported to hold and affirm, as though it consisted only in the mutual consent betwixt the man and the woman, needing no other solemnizing in the public church, and all because (as it is like) they denied it to be a sacrament. Other articles were objected against them, as these which hereafter follow.
"That auricular confession is not to be made unto a priest, but unto God only; because no priest hath any power to absolve a sinner from his sin.
"Item, That no priest hath power to make the body of Christ in the sacrament of the altar, but that, after the sacramental words, there remaineth pure material bread as before.
"Item, That every true Christian man is a priest to God.
"Item, That no man is bound under pain of damnation unto Lent, or any other days prohibited by the Church of Rome.
"Item, That the pope is antichrist, and his prelates the disciples of antichrist, and the pope hath no power to bind and loose upon earth.
"Item, That it is lawful for every Christian to do any bodily work (sin only except) upon holy days.
"Item, That it is lawful for priests to have wives.
"Item, That excommunications and ecclesiastical censures given out by the prelates, are not to be regarded.
"Item, It is not lawful to swear in private cases.
"Item, That men ought not to go on pilgrimage.
"Item, That there is no honour to be given to the images of the crucifix, of our Lady, or any other saint.
"Item, That the holy water, hallowed in the church by the priest, is not holier or of more virtue than other running or well water, because the Lord blessed all waters in their first creation.
"Item, That the death of Thomas Becket was neither holy nor meritorious.
"Item, That the relics, as dead men's bones, ought not to be worshipped or digged out of their graves, or set up in shrines.
"Item, That prayers made in all places are acceptable unto God.
"Item, That men ought not to pray to any saint, but only to God.
"Item, That the bells and ringing in the church was ordained for no other purpose, but to fill the priests' purses.
"Item, That it is no sin to withstand the ecclesiastical precepts.
"Item, That the catholic church is only the congregation of elect."
These were the articles which were generally objected against them all, wherein they did so agree in one uniform faith, that whatsoever one did hold, all the other did maintain and hold the same. By the which their consent and doctrine it appeareth, that they all received it of some one instructor, who was William White; which being a scholar and follower of John Wickliff, resorted afterward into this country of Norfolk, there instructed these men in the light of the gospel. And now, as we have declared the names and articles o' these good men, so it remaineth somewhat to speak of their troubles, how they were handled, beginning first with William White.
William White, priest.
This William White, being a follower of John Wickliff, and a priest, not after the common sort of priests, but rather to be reputed amongst the number of them, of whom the wise man speaketh, He was as the morning star in the midst of a cloud, &c. This man was well learned, upright, and a well-spoken priest. He gave over his priesthood and benefice, and took unto him a godly young woman to his wife, named Joan; notwithstanding he did not therefore cease to leave from his former office and duty, but continually laboured to the glory and praise of the spouse of Christ, by reading, writing, preaching. The principal points of his doctrine were these, which he was forced to recant at Canterbury.
"That men should seek for the forgiveness of their sins only at the hands of God.
"That the wicked living of the pope, and his holiness, is nothing else but a devilish estate and heavy yoke of antichrist, and therefore he is an enemy unto Christ's truth.
"That men ought not to worship images, or other idolatrous paintings.
"That men ought not to worship the holy men which are dead.
"That the Romish Church is the fig tree which the Lord Christ hath accursed, because it hath brought forth no fruit of the true belief.
"That such as wear cowls, or be anointed or shorn, are the lance-knights and soldiers of Lucifer; and that they all, because their lamps are not burning, shall be shut out, when the Lord shall come."
Upon which articles he being attached at Canterbury under the archbishop, Henry Chichesley, in the year of our Lord 1424, there, for a certain space, stoutly and manly witnessed the truth which he had preached; but like as there he lost his courage and strength, so afterward he became again much more stout and strong in Jesus Christ, and confessed his own error and offence. For after this, he going into Norfolk with his said wife Joan, and there occupying himself busily in teaching and converting the people unto the true doctrine of Christ, at the last, by the means of the king's letters sent down for that intent and purpose, he was apprehended and taken, and brought before William, bishop of Norwich, by whom he was convicted, and condemned of thirty articles, and there was burned in Norwich, in the month of September, A. D. 1424.
This William White and his wife had his most abode with one Thomas Moone of Ludney. This man was of so devout and holy life, that all the people had him in great reverence, and desired him to pray for them; insomuch that one Margaret Wright confessed, that if any saints were to be prayed to, she would rather pray to him than any other. When he was come unto the stake, thinking to open his mouth to speak unto the people, to exhort and confirm them in the verity, one of the bishop's servants struck him on the mouth, thereby to force him to keep silence. And thus this good man, receiving the crown of martyrdom, ended this mortal life, to the great dolour and grief of all the good men of Norfolk. Whose said wife Joan, following her husband's footsteps according to her power, teaching and sowing abroad the same doctrine, confirmed many men in God's truth; wherefore she suffered much trouble and punishment the same year at the hands of the said bishop.
About the same time also was burned Father Abraham of Colchester, and John Wadden, priest, for the like articles.
Concerning them which abjured, how, and by whom they were examined, what depositions came in against them, and what was the order and manner of the penance enjoined them, here it might be set out at large; but for avoiding of prolixity, it shall be sufficient briefly to touch certain of the principals, whereby the better understanding may be given to the reader, after what manner and order all the other were treated.
First, amongst them which were arrested and caused to abjure in this year aforesaid specified, 1428, were Thomas Pye and John Mendham, of Alburgh, who, being convicted upon divers of the articles before mentioned, were enjoined penance to be done in their own parish church, as by the bishop's letter directed to the dean of Redenhall, and the parish priest of Alburgh, doth more at large appear, the tenor whereof here ensueth.
The copy of the bishop of Norwich's letter.
"William, by the sufferance of God bishop of Norwich, to our well-beloved sons in Christ, the dean of Redenhall of our diocese, and to the parish priest of the parish church of Alburgh of the same our diocese, health, grace, and benediction. Forasmuch as we, according to our office, lawfully proceeding to the correction and amendment of the souls of Thomas Pye and John Mendham of Alburgh of the diocese aforesaid, because they have holden, believed, and affirmed divers and many errors and heresies, contrary to the determination of the holy Church of Rome, and the universal church and catholic faith, have enjoined the said Thomas and John, appearing before us personally, and confessing before us judicially that they have holden, believed, and affirmed divers and many errors and heresies, this penance, hereunder written, for their offences, to be done and fulfilled in manner, form, and time hereunder written, according as justice doth require; that is to say, six fustigations or disciplinings about the parish church of Alburgh aforesaid, before a solemn procession, six several Sundays, and three disciplinings about the market-place of Harleston, of our said diocese, three principal market-days, barenecked, head, legs, and feet, their bodies being covered only with their shirts and breeches, either of them carrying a taper in his hand of a pound weight, as well round about the church, as about the market-place, in every of the aforesaid appointed days; which tapers, the last Sunday after the penance finished, we will' that the said John and Thomas do humbly and devoutly offer unto the high altar of the parish church of Alburgh, at the time of the offertory of the high mass, the same day; and that either of them, going about the market-place aforesaid, shall make four several pauses and stays, and at every of those same pauses humbly and devoutly receive at your hands three disciplinings. Therefore we straitly charge and command you, and either of you, jointly and severally, by virtue of your obedience, that every Sunday and market-day, after the receipt of our present commandment, you do effectually admonish and bring forth the said Thomas Pye and John Mendham, to begin and accomplish their said penance, and so successively to finish the same in manner and form before appointed. But if they will not obey your monitions, or rather our commandments, in this behalf, and begin and finish their said penance effectually, you, or one of you, shall cite them peremptorily, that they, or either of them, appear before us, or our commissary, in the chapel of our palace at Norwich, the twelfth day after the citation so made, if it be a court day, or else the next court day following, to declare if they, or any of them, have any cause why they should not be excommunicated for their manifest offence in this behalf committed, according to the form and order of law, and further to receive such punishment as justice shall provide in that behalf. And what you have done in the premises, whether the said Thomas, and John have obeyed your admonitions, and performed the same penance, or no, we will that you, or one of you, which have received our said commandment for the execution thereof, do distinctly certify us, between this and the last day of November next coming. Dated at our palace of Norwich, under our commissary's seal, the eighth day of October, A. D. 1428."
This, gentle reader, was, for the most part, the order of their whole penance; howbeit, some were oftentimes more cruelly handled, and after their penance they were banished out of the diocese, and other some more straitly used by longer imprisonment, whereof we will briefly rehearse one or two for example.
John Beverley, alias Battild.
John Beverly, alias Battild, a labourer, was attached by the vicar of Southereke, the parish priest of Waterden, and a lawyer, and so delivered unto Master William Barnham, the bishop's commissary, who sent him to the castle of Norwich, there to be kept in irons; where, afterward he being brought before the commissary, and having nothing proved against him, he took an oath, that every year afterward he should confess his sins once a year to his curate, and receive the sacrament at Easter, as other Christians did; and for his offence was enjoined, that the Friday and Saturday next after he should fast bread and water, and upon the Saturday to be whipped from the palace of Norwich, going round about by Tombland, and by St. Michael's church, by Cottlerew, and about the market, having in his hand a wax candle of two pence, to offer to the image of the Trinity, after he had done his penance. And forasmuch as he confessed that he had eaten flesh upon Easter day, and was not shriven in all Lent, nor received upon Easter day, the judge enjoined him that he should fast Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, in Whitsun week, having but one meal a day, of fish and other white meats; and after this penance so done, he should depart out of the diocese, and never come there any more.
John Skilley of Flixton, miller, and others.
John Skilley of Flixton, miller, being apprehended and brought before the bishop of Norwich, the fourteenth day of March, 1428, for holding and maintaining the articles above written, was thereupon convicted, and forced to abjure; and after this abjuration solemnly made, (which here, to avoid tediousness, we omit,) he had a most sharp sentence of penance pronounced against him, the effect whereof being briefly collected, was this: "That forasmuch as the said Skilley was convicted, by his own confession, for holding and maintaining the articles before written, and for receiving certain good and godly men into his house, as Sir William White, priest, and John Wadden, whom they called famous, notorious, and damnable heretics, and had now abjured the same, being first absolved from the sentence of excommunication which he had incurred by means of his opinions, he was enjoined for penance seven years' imprisonment in the monastery of Langley, in the diocese of Norwich. And forasmuch as in times past he used upon the Fridays to eat flesh, he was enjoined to fast bread and water every Friday, by the space of that seven years to come; and that by the space of two years next, immediately after the seven years expired, every Wednesday in the beginning of Lent, and every Maundy Thursday, he should appear before the bishop or his successor, or commissary for the time being, in the cathedral church of Norwich, together with the other penitentiaries, to do open penance for his offences.
Besides these there were divers other of the same company, which the same year were forced to like abjuration and penance. And so to proceed to the next year following, which was 1429, there ensueth a great number in the same register, which were examined, and did penance in like sort, to the number of sixteen or seventeen. In the number of whom was John Baker, otherwise called Usher Tonstall, who, for having a book with the Paternoster, the Ave, and Creed in English, and for certain other articles of fasting, confession, and invocation, contrary to the determination of the Romish Church, after much vexation for the same, was caused to abjure, and sustain such penance as the other before him had done.
The story of Margery Backster.
Another was Margery Backster, wife of William Backster, wright, in Martham, the same year accused; against whom one Joan, wife of Cliffeland, was brought in by the bishop, and compelled to depose, and was made to bring in, in form following.
"First, That the said Margery Backster did inform this deponent, that she should in no case swear, saying to her in English, 'Dame, beware of the bee, for every bee will sting, and therefore take heed you swear not, neither by God, neither by our Lady, neither by any other saint; and if ye do contrary, the bee will sting your tongue and venom your soul.'
"Item, This deponent being demanded by the said Margery, what she did every day at church, answered, that she kneeled down and said five Paternosters in worship of the crucifix, and as many Ave Maries in worship of our Lady; whom Margery rebuked, saying, 'You do evil to kneel or pray to such images in the churches, for God dwelleth not in such churches, neither shall come down out of heaven, and will give you no more reward for such prayer, than a candle lighted, and set under the cover of the font, will give light by night to those which are in the church; saying moreover in English, 'Lewd wrights, of stocks hew and form such crosses and images, and after that lewd painters gleer them with colours. And if you desire so much to see the true cross of Christ, I will show it you at home in your own house; 'which this deponent being desirous to see, the said Margery, stretching out her arms abroad, said to this deponent, 'This is the true cross of Christ, and this cross thou oughtest and mayest every day behold and worship in thine own house, and therefore it is but vain to run to the church to worship dead crosses and images.'
"Item, This deponent, being demanded by the said Margery, how she believed touching the sacrament of the altar, said, that she believed the sacrament of the altar, after the consecration, to be the very body of Christ in form of bread. To whom Margery said, 'Your belief is naught; for if every such sacrament were God, and the very body of Christ, there should be an infinite number of gods, bccause that a thousand priests and more do every day make a thousand such gods, and afterwards eat them, and void them out again by their hinder parts, filthily stinking under the hedges, where you may find a great many such gods if you will seek for them. And therefore know for certainty, that, by the grace of God, it shall never be my god, because it is falsely and deceitfully ordained by the priests in the church, to induce the simple people to idolatry; for it is only material bread.'
"Moreover, the said Margery said to this deponent, that Thomas of Canterbury, whom the people called St. Thomas, was a false traitor, and damned in hell, because be injuriously endowed the churches with possessions, and raised up many heresies in the church, which seduce the simple people; and therefore if God be blessed, the said Thomas is accursed; and those false priests that say that he suffered his death patiently before the altar, do lie; for as a cowardly traitor he was slain in the church door, as he was flying away.
"Moreover, this deponent saith, that the said Margery told her that the cursed pope, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, and specially the bishop of Norwich and others that support and maintain heresies and idolatry, reigning and ruling over the people, shall shortly have the very same or worse mischief fall upon them, than that cursed man Thomas of Canterbury had. For they falsely andcursedly deceive the people with their false mammetries and laws, to extort money of the simple folk to sustain their pride, riot, and idleness. And know assuredly that the vengeance of God will speedily come upon them, which have most cruelly slain the children of God, Father Abraham, and William White, a true preacher of the law of God, and John Wadden, with many other godly men; which vengeance had come upon the said Caiaphas, the bishop of Norwich and his ministers, which are members of the devil, before this time, if the pope had not sent over these false pardons unto those parties, which the said Caiaphas had falsely obtained, to induce the people to make procession for the state of them and of the church; which pardons brought the simple people to cursed idolatry.
"Item, The said Margery said to this deponent, that every faithful man or woman is not bound to fast in Lent, or other days appointed for fasting by the church, and that every man may lawfully eat flesh and all other meats upon the said days and times: and that it were better to eat the fragments left upon Thursday at night on the fasting days, than to go to the market to bring themselves in debt to buy fish; and that Pope Silvester made the Lent.
"Item, The said Margery said to this deponent, that William White was falsely condemned for a heretic, and that he was a good and holy man, and that he willed her to follow him to the place of execution, where she saw that when he would have opened his mouth to speak unto the people to instruct them, a devil, one of Bishop Caiaphas's servants, struck him on the lips and stopped his mouth, that he could in no case declare the will of God.
"Item, This deponent saith, that the said Margery taught her that she should not go on pilgrimage, neither to our Lady at Walsingham, nor to any other saint or place.
"Also this deponent saith, that the said Margery desired her that she, and Joan her maid, would come secretly in the night to her chamber, and there she should hear her husband read the law of Christ unto them, which law was written in a book that her husband was wont to read to her by night, and that her husband is well learned in the Christian verity.
"Also that the same Margery had talked with a woman named Joan West, and that the said woman is in a good way of salvation.
"Also that the said Margery said to this deponent, 'Joan, it appeareth, by your countenance, that you intend to disclose this that I have said unto you;' and this deponent sware that she would never disclose it, without the said Margery gave her occasion. Then said Margery unto this deponent, 'If thou do accuse me unto the bishop, I will do unto thee as I did once unto a certain friar, a Carmelite, of Yarmouth, which was the best learned friar in all the country.' Then this deponent desired to know what she had done to the friar. Unto whom Margery answered, that she had talked with the said friar, rebuking him because he did beg, saying, that it was no alms to give him any good thing, except he would leave his habit, and go to the plough, and so he should please God more, than following the life of some of those friars. Then the friar required of the said Margery, whether she could teach him or tell him any thing else. Then the said Margery (as she affirmed to this deponent) declared to this friar the Gospels in English, and then the friar departed from her. After this the same friar accused the said Margery of heresy, and she, understanding that the friar had accused her, accused the friar again, that he would have known her carnally, and because she would not consent unto him, the friar had accused her of heresy. And moreover, she said, that her husband would have killed the friar therefore; and so the friar for fear held his peace, and went his way for shame.
"This Margery also said, that she had oftentimes been feignedly confessed to the dean of the fields, because he should think her to be a woman of good life, and therefore he gave the said Margery oftentimes money. Then this deponent asked her, whether she had confessed her sins to a priest or not. And she answered, that she had never offended any priest, and therefore she would never confess herself to any priest, neither obey him, because they have no power to absolve any man from their sins, for that they offend daily more grievously than other men, and therefore that men ought to confess themselves only unto God, and to no priest.
"Item, That the said Margery said to this deponent, that the people did worship devils which fell from heaven with Lucifer, which devils, in their fall to the earth, entered into the images which stand in the churches, and have long lurked and dwelt in them; so that the people, worshipping those images, commit idolatry.
"Item, She said more to this deponent, that holy bread and holy water were but trifles of no effect or force, and that the bells are to be cast out of the church, and that they are excommunicated which first ordained them.
"Moreover, That she should not be burned, although she were convicted of Lollardy, for that she had a charter of salvation in her body.
"Also the said deponent saith, that Agnes Berthem, her servant, being sent to the house of the said Margery the Saturday after Ash Wednesday, the said Margery not being within, found a brass pot standing over the fire, with a piece of bacon and oatmeal seething in it, as the said Agnes reported to this deponent.
"There were also, besides this deponent, divers others sworn and examined upon the said Margery, as John Grimley and Agnes Berthem, servants to William Clifland, which all together confirmed the former depositions."
Thus much we have thought good to note as concerning Margery Backster, which we have gathered out of the old monuments and registers. But what became of her after this her accusation, because we find no mention made in the said registers, we are not able to declare.
The same year also were the like depositions made by one William Wright, against divers good men; as here followeth:
"First, This deponent saith, that William Taylor told John Piry of Ludney, in the house of John Bungay of Beghton, in the presence of John Bungay, Robert Grigges, wright, of Martham, and John Usher, that all the good men of Martham, which were favourers and helpers to that good man, William White, are evil troubled now-a-days, and that the said William White was a good and holy doctor, and that the best doctor after him was William Everden, which wrought with the said William Taylor of Ludney, by the space of one month, and that the first Sunday of the same month, the said William Everden did sit all day upon the table at work, saying to the said William Taylor, that he would not go to church to show himself a scribe or a Pharisee; and the second Sunday he put on gentleman's apparel, and went to Norwich to hearken how the bishop and his ministers used the poor Christians there in prison.
"Also the said William Wright deposed, that William Taylor of Ludney was one of the sect, and went to London with Sir Hugh Pye, and had conversation oftentimes with Sir William White, having often conference upon the Lollards' doctrine.
"Item, That Anise, wife of Thomas Moone, is of the same sect, and favoured them, and receiveth them often; and also the daughter of Thomas Moone is partly of the same sect, and can read English.
"Item, That Richard Fletcher of Beccles, is a most perfect doctor in that sect, and can very well and perfectly expound the Holy Scriptures, and hath a book of the new law in English, which was Sir Hugh Pye's first.
"Item, That Nicholas Belward, son of John Bel-ward, dwelling in the parish of Southelmham, is one of the same sect, and hath a New Testament which he bought in London for four marks and forty pence, and taught the said William Wright and Margery his wife, and wrought with them continually by the space of one year, and studied diligently upon the said New Testament.
"Item, That Thomas Gremner, turner, of Ditchingham, is perfect in that sect and law.
"John Clarke, the younger, of Bergh, had the bedding and apparel of William Everden in his custody, after the return of William White from Bergh, and is of the same sect.
"Item, William Bate, tailor, of Seething, and his wife, and his son, which can read English very well, are of the same sect.
"Item, William Skirving, of Seething, received Joan the wife of William White into his house, being brought thither by William Everden, after their departure from Martham.
"Item, William Osbourne of Seething, John Reeve, glover, and Bawdwin Cooper of Beccles, are of the same sect.
"Item, John Pert, late servant of Thomas Moone, is of the same sect, and can read well, and did read in the presence of William White, and was the first that brought Sir Hugh Pye into the company of the Lollards, which assembled oftentimes together at the house of the said Thomas Moone, and there conferred upon their doctrine.
"Item, Sir Hugh Pye bequeathed to Alice, servant to William White, a New Testament, which they then called the Book of the New Law, and was in the custody of Oswald Godfrey of Colchester.
"John Parker, mercer, of a village by Ipswich, is a famous doctor of that sect. Also he said, that Father Abraham, of Colchester, is a good man.
"Item, The said William Wright deposeth, that it is read in the prophecies amongst the Lollards, that the sect of Lollards shall be in a manner destroyed; notwithstanding, at the length, the Lollards shall prevail and have the victory against all their enemies.
"Also he said, that Tuck knoweth all of that sect in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Essex."
Besides these, there were many other the same year troubled, whose names being before expressed in the table of Norfolk men, here for brevity's sake we omit further to treat of, passing over to the next year following, which was 1430.
John Burrell, servant to Thomas Moone of Ludney, in the diocese of Norwich, was apprehended and arrested for heresy the ninth day of September, in this year of our Lord 1430, and examined by Master William Bernham, the bishop's commissary, upon the articles before mentioned, and divers others hereafter following, objected against him.
"Imprimis, That the catholic church is the soul of every good Christian man.
"Item, That no man is bound to fast the Lent or other fasting days appointed by the church, for they were not appointed by God, but ordained by the priests; and that every man may eat flesh or fish upon the same days indifferently, according to his own will, and every Friday is a free day to eat both flesh and fish indifferently.
"Item, That pilgrimage ought not to be made but only unto the poor.
"Item, That it is not lawful to swear, but in case of life and death.
"Item, That masses and prayers for the dead are but vain; for the souls of the dead are either in heaven or hell, and there is none other place of purgatory but this world."
Upon the which articles he being convicted, was forced to abjure, and suffered like penance as the other before had done.
Thomas Moone of Ludney was apprehended and attached for suspicion of heresy, against whom were objected by the bishop the articles before written, but especially this article, that he had familiarity and communication with divers heretics, and had received, comforted, supported, and maintained divers of them, as Sir William White, Sir Hugh Pye, Thomas Pet, and William Callis, priests, with many more; upon the which articles he being convicted before the bishop was forced to abjure, and receive the like penance, in like manner as before.
In like manner, Robert Griggs of Martham was brought before the bishop, the seventeenth day of February, in the year aforesaid, for holding and affirming the aforesaid articles, but specially these hereafter following:
"That the sacrament of confirmation, ministered by the bishop, did avail nothing to salvation.
"That it was no sin to withstand the ordinances of the Church of Rome.
"That holy bread and holy water were but trifles, and that the bread and the water were the worse for the conjurations and characters which the priests made over them."
Upon which articles he being convicted was forced to abjure, and received penance in manner and form as the other had done before him.
The like also (albeit somewhat more sharp) happened unto John Finch of Colchester, the twentieth day of September, who, albeit he was of the diocese of London, being suspected of heresy, was attached in Ipswich, in the diocese of Norwich, and brought before the bishop there, before whom he, being eonvicted of the like articles, as all the other before him,was enjoined penance, three disciplinings in solemn procession about the cathedral church of Norwich, three several Sundays, and three disciplinings about the market-place of Norwich, three principal market-days, his head, and neck, and feet being bare, and his body covered only with a short shirt, or vesture, having in his hands a taper of wax, of a pound weight, which, the next Sunday after his penance, he should offer to the Trinity; and that for the space of three years after, every Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, he should appear in the cathedral church of Norwich, before the bishop or his vicegerent, to do open penance amongst the other penitentiaries for his offences.
Illustration -- Norwich cathedral
There were, besides these men which we have here rehearsed, divers and many others, who, both for theconcordance of the matter, and also for that their articles and punishments were all one, we have thought good at this time to pass over, especially forasmuch as their names be before recited in the catalogue.
About the same time, even the same year, 1430, shortly after the solemn coronation of King Henry the Sixth, a certain man, named Richard Hoveden, a wool-winder, and a citizen of London, received also the crown of martyrdom. Which man, when he could by no persuasions be withdrawn or plucked back from the opinions of Wickliff, he was by the rulers of the church condemned for heresy; and, as Fabian writeth, burned hard by the Tower of London.
Nicholas Canon, of Eye.
Now to proceed in our story of Norfolk and Suffolk, in following the order of years, we find that in the year of our Lord 1431, one Nicholas Canon of Eye was brought before the bishop of Norwich for suspicion of heresy, with certain witnesses sworn to depose against him touching his manners and conversation; which witnesses appointing one William Christopher to speak in the name of them all, he deposed in manner and form following:
"First, That on Easter-day, when all the parishioners went about the church of Eye solemnly in procession, as the manner was, the said Nicholas Canon, as it were mocking and deriding the other parishioners, went about the church the contrary way, and met the procession."
This article he confessed, and affirmed that he thought he did well in so doing.
"Item, The said Nicholas asked of Master John Colman of Eye this question; Master Colman, what think you of the sacrament of the altar?' To whom the said Colman answered, 'Nicholas, I think that the sacrament of the altar is very God and very man, the very flesh and very blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the form of bread and wine.' Unto whom Nicholas in derision said, Truly, if the sacrament of the altar be very God and very man, and the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, then may very God and very man be put in a small room; as when it is in the priest's mouth, that receivieth it at mass. And why may not we simple men as well eat flesh upon Fridays, and all other prohibited days, as the priest to eat the flesh and drink the blood of our Lord every day indifferently?' The which article the said Nicholas denied that he spake unto Master Colman, but unto a monk of Hockesney; and furthermore he thought he had spoken well in that behalf.
"Item, That on Corpus Christi day, at the elevation of high mass, when all the parishioners and other strangers kneeled down, holding up their hands, and doing reverence unto the sacrament, the said Nicholas went behind a pillar of the church,and turning his face from the high altar, mocked them that did reverence unto the sacrament." This article he also acknowledging, affirmed that he believed himself to do well in so doing.
"Item, When his mother would have the said Nicholas to lift up his right hand, and to cross himself from the crafts and assaults of the devil, forasmuch as he deferred the doing thereof, his mother took up his right hand and crossed him, saying, In nomine Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen. Which so ended, the said Nicholas immediately, deriding his mother's blessing, took up his right hand of his own accord, and blessed him otherwise, as his adversaries report of him." This article the said Nicholas acknowledged to be true.
"Item, That upon Allhallows-day, in the time of elevation of high mass, when many of the parishioners of Eye lighted many torches, and carried them up to the high altar, kneeling down there in reverence and honour of the sacrament, the said Nicholas, carrying a torch, went up hard to the high altar, and standing behind the priest's back, saying mass, at the time of the elevation he stood upright upon his feet, turning his back to the priest, and his face toward the people, and would do no reverence unto the sacrament." This article he acknowledged, affirming that he thought he had done well in that behalf. All which articles the bishop's commissary caused to be copied out word for word, and to be sent unto Master William Worsted, prior of the cathedral church of Norwich, and to other doctors of divinity, of the order of Begging Friars, that they might deliberate upon them, and show their minds between that and Thursday next following. Upon which Thursday, being the last of November, the year abovesaid, the said Nicholas was again examined, before Master Bernham, and divers other, upon two other articles which he had confessed unto J. Exetor, notary, and Thomas Gerusten, bachelor of divinity, and others. Whereof the first article was this: "That the said Nicholas Canon, being of perfect mind and remembrance, confessed that he doubted whether in the sacrament of the altar were the very body of Christ or no." This article he confessed before the commissary to be true.
"Item, That he, being of perfect mind and remembrance, believed that a man ought not to confess his sins to a priest." This article he also confessed that he doubted upon.
Now remaineth to declare what these doctors aforesaid concluded upon the articles, whose answer unto the same was this:
First of all, as touching the first article, they said that the article, in the same terms as it was propounded, is not simply a heresy, but an error.
Item, As touching the second article, the doctors agree as in the first.
Item, As touching the third article, they affirm that it is a heresy.
Unto the fourth article, they answered as unto the first and second.
Item, The doctors affirm the fifth article to be a heresy.
Item, As touching the sixth article, the doctors conclude, that if the said Nicholas, being of perfect mind and remembrance, did doubt whether the sacrament of the altar were the very perfect body of Christ or no, then the article is simply a heresy.
Whereupon the said commissary declared and pronounced the said Nicholas Canon, upon the determination of the said doctors, to be a heretic, and thereupon forced the said Nicholas to abjure all the said articles. That done, he enjoined the said Nicholas penance for his offences, three disciplinings about the cloister of the cathedral church of Norwich, before a solemn procession, bareheaded and barefoot, carrying a taper of half a pound in his hand, going after the manner aforesaid, like a mere penitentiary; the which his penance the judge commanded should be respited until the coming of the bishop into his diocese, and that in the mean time he should be kept in prison, to the end that he should not infect the flock with his venom and poison of errors and heresies.
Thus have we briefly discoursed unto you the great trouble and afflictions which happened in Norfolk and Suffolk by the space of those four years before mentioned, having drawn out briefly for every year certain notable examples, sufficient for the declaration of all the rest, forasmuch as their opinions being nothing different, their penance and punishment did also nothing differ, otherwise than by those particular examples may he plainly seen.
Thomas Bagley, priest.
And now to proceed as we have begun with our former stories, generally, we find in Fabian's chronicles, that in the same year of our Lord, 1431, Thomas Bagley, a priest, vicar of Monenden, beside Malden, being a valiant disciple, and adherent of Wickliff, was condemned by the bishops of heresy at London, about the midst of Lent, and was degraded and burned in Smithfield.
Paul Craw, a Bohemian.
The same year also was Paul Craw, a Bohemian, taken at St. Andrew's, by the Bishop Henry, and delivered over to the secular power to be burnt, for holding contrary opinions unto the Church of Rome touching the sacrament of the Lord's supper, the worshipping of saints, auricular confession, with other of Wickliff's opinions.
The story of Thomas Rhedon, a Frenchman, and a Carmelite friar, burnt in Italy for the profession of Christ.
We have declared before, how this cruel storm of persecution, which first began with us in England, after it had long raged here against many good and godly men, brake out and passed into Bohemia, and after, within a short time, the fire of this persecution, increasing by little and little, invaded Scotland, and from thence now with greater force and violence this furious devouring flame hath entered Italy, and suffereth not any part of the world to be free from the murder and slaughter of most good and godly men. It happened about this time, that one Thomas Rhedon, a friar of that sect which taketh its name of the Mount of Carmel, by chance came with the Venetian ambassadors into Italy. This man, although he was of that, sort and sect, which instead of Christians are called Carmelites, yet was he of a far other religion, and understood the word of God, judging that God ought not to be worshipped, neither in that mount, nor at Jerusalem only, but in spirit and truth. This man, being a true Carmelite, and savouring with his whole heart that new sweet wine of Jesus Christ, with earnest study and desire seeking after a Christian integrity of life, prepared himself first to go into Italy, trusting that he should find there, or else in no place, some, by whose good life and living he might be edified and instructed. For where ought more abundance of virtue and good living to be, than in that place which is counted to be the fort and fountain of all religion? And how could it otherwise be, but that, where so great holiness is professed, whereupon all men's eyes are bent as upon a stage, whereat St. Peter's seat is, and is thought to be the ruler and governor of all the church, all things should flourish and abound worthy of so great expectation in that place? This holy man having these things before his eyes, and considering the same with himself, forsook his own country and city, and went unto Rome, conceiving a firm and sure hope, that by the example of so many notable and worthy men, he should greatly profit in godliness and learning; but the success of the matter did utterly frustrate his hope, for all things were clean contrary. Whatsoever he saw was nothing else but mere dissimulation and hypocrisy. Instead of gold, he found nothing but coals; and to say the truth, he found nothing else there but gold and silver. Instead of heavenly gifts there reigned amongst them the pomp and pride of the world: in place of godliness, riot: instead of learning and study, slothfulness and superstition. Tyranny and haughtiness of mind had possessed the place of apostolic simplicity: that now there remained no more any place or liberty for a man to learn that which he knew not, or to teach that which he perfectly understood. Finally, all things were turned upside down, all things happened unto him contrary to his expectation wheresoever he went. But nothing so much offended this good man's mind, as the intolerable ambition and pompous pride in them, whom example of humility should especially commend and praise to the whole world. And albeit that he saw here nothing which did accord and agree with the rule of the apostles; yet these things did so much pass all measure and patience, that he could by no means refrain his tongue in so great abuse and corruption of the church, seeing such ambitious pride in their buildings, apparel, in their palaces, in their dainty fare, in their great trains of servants, in their horse and armour, and, finally, in all things pertaining unto them. Which things how much they did vary from the prescript rule of the gospel, so much the more was this good man forced to speak; albeit he did well understand how little he should prevail by speaking: for if admonition would profit any thing at all, the books of Wickliff and divers other were not wanting. The famous testimonies of John Huss, and of Jerome of Prague, and their blood shed for the same, was yet present before their eyes: at whose most effectual exhortations, they were so little corrected and amended, that they seemed twice more cruel than they were before. Yet all this could not fear this good man, but that in so necessary and wholesome an office he would spend his life, if need should be. So by this means, he which came to be a scholar unto others, was now forced to be their teacher; and he which determined to follow other men's lives and manners, had now contrariwise set before them his life to he marked and followed. For he lived so amongst them, that his life might be a rule unto them all, and so taught, as he might also be their schoolmaster. For even as Paul had foreshowed unto such as desired to live godly in Christ, that they should suffer persecution, such like reward happened unto this man. He gave unto them the fruit of godliness, which they should follow: they again set upon his head the diadem of martyrdom. He showed them the way to salvation; and they for the benefit of life rewarded him death: and whereas no rewards had been worthy for his great labours and travails, they with most extreme ignominy persecuted him even unto the fire. For when by continual preaching he had gotten great envy and hatred, the rulers began to consult together by what means they might circumvent this man's life. Here they had recourse to their accustomed remedies: for it was a peculiar and continual custom amongst the prelates of the church, that if any man did displease them, or that his talk be not according to their mind, or by any means hurtful, or a hinderance to their lucre and gain, by and by they frame out articles of some heresy, which they charge him withal. And like as every living thing hath his peculiar and proper weapon to defend himself from harm, as nature hath armed the boar with his tusks, the hedgehog with his prickles, the lion is feared for his claws, the dog for his biting, the bull fighteth with his horns, neither doth the ass lack his hoofs to strike withal; even so this is the only armour of the bishops, to strangle a man with heresy, if he once go about to mutter against their will and ambition: which thing may be easily perceived and seen in this most holy man, beside a great number of other; who, when now he began to wax grievous unto them, and could no longer be suffered, what did they? straightways fly unto their old policies, and as they had done with Huss, and Jerome of Prague, even so went they about to practise against this man. They overwhelm him with suspicion, they seek to entangle him with questions, they examine him in judgment, they compile articles against him, and lay heresy unto his charge; they condemn him as a heretic, and being so condemned, they destroy and kill him. This was their godliness; this was the peaceable order of those Carmelites; whose religion was to wear no sword nor shield, notwithstanding, they did bear in their hearts malice, rancour, vengeance, poison, craft, and deceit, sharper than any sword. With how great care and policy is it provided by law, that none of these clergymen should fight with sword in the streets, when in judgment and accusations (whereas it is not lawful for a man to oppress his brother) there is no murderer which hath more ready vengeance, or that doth more vilely esteem his brother's soul than they? They shed no blood themselves, they strike not, nor kill, but they deliver them over unto others to be slain. What difference is there, I pray you, but that they are the authors, and the other are but the ministers of the cruel fact? They kill no man as murderers do. How then? Although not after the same sort, yet they do it by another mean.
The articles which they falsely gathered against this man, are affirmed by some to be these:
"That the church lacketh reformation, and that it shall be punished and reformed.
"That infidels, Jews, Turks, and Moors shall be converted unto Christ in the latter days.
"That abominations are used at Rome.
"That the unjust excommunication of the pope is not to be feared; and those which do not observe the same do not sin or offend."
But yet there lacked a minister for these articles, albeit he could not long be wanting at Rome, where all things are to be sold, even men's souls; for this office and ministry there was no man thought more meet, than William of Rouen, cardinal of St. Martin's in the Mount, vice-chancellor of the court of Rome. Eugenius at that time was pope, who had a little before succeeded Pope Martin above mentioned. Before the which Eugenius this godly Rhedonensis, the Frenchman, was brought, and from thence sent unto prison. And again, after his imprisonment, and divers and sundry grievous torments, he was brought before the judges. The wolf sat in judgment, the lamb was accused. Why? because he had troubled the spring: but here need not many words. This good Thomas not being able to resist the malice of these mighty potentates, had offended enough, and was easily convicted and condemned to he burned, but in such sort, as first of all he should be deprived of all such degrees as he had taken of priesthood. For it is counted an unlawful thing, that a priest should be punished with profane punishment,when, notwithstanding, it is lawful enough for priests to put any layman to death, be he never so guiltless.
How religiously and earnestly do they foresee, that the majesty of the priestly dignity should not in any case be hurt! But how little care have they, that their consciences be not hurt with false judgments, and oppressing the guiltless! Wherefore, before that he should come unto punishment, this good man must be degraded. The order and manner of this popish degrading is partly before touched in the story of William Taylor.
After that it had pleased the bishops to degrade this man from the degrees wherewith before they had consecrated him, and thought not that sufficient, by and by after they deprived him of his life also, and burned him, four years after that he came to Rome, in the year of our Lord 1436.
And thus, through the cruelty of these most tyrannous prelates, this blessed martyr died. Albeit it is not to be thought that he died, but made a loss of this body for a greater gain of salvation before the just judgment of God. Neither is it to be doubted, but that he liveth eternally under the altar with them whose blood the Lord will revenge, peradventure too soon for some of them, whom the earth hath here so long holden unpunished.
As this Thomas abovesaid suffered at Rome, so were divers others, in other places about Germany,executed near about the same time, after the burning of John Huss; and Henry Grundfelder, priest, of Ratisbon, A. D. 1420; also Henry Radtgeber, priest, in the same city, A. D. 1423; John Draendorf of noble birth, and a priest, was burned at Worms, A. D. 1424; Peter Thoraw, at Spire, A. D. 1426; Matthew Hager also suffered at Berlin in Germany, not long after.