Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 192. OTHER MARTYRS, 1538

192. OTHER MARTYRS, 1538

The death of Robert Packington.

Among other acts and matters passed and done this present year, which is of the Lord 1538, here is not to be silenced the unworthy and lamentable death of Robert Packington, mercer of London, wrought and caused by the enemies of God's word, and of all good proceedings. The story is this: The said Robert Packington, being a man of sub. stance, yet not so rich as discreet and honest, and dwelling in Cheapside, used every day at five o'clock, winter and summer, to go to prayers at a church then called St. Thomas of Acres, but now named Mercer's Chapel. And one morning amongst all others, being a great misty morning, such as hath seldom been seen, even as he was crossing the street from his house to the church, he was suddenly murdered with a gun, which of the neighbours was plainly heard; and, by a great number of labourers standing at Soper-lane end, he was both seen to go forth of his house, and the clap of the gun was heard, but the deed-doer was a great while un-espied and unknown. Although many in the mean time were suspected, yet none could be found faulty therein, the murderer so covertly was conveyed, till at length, by the confession of Dr. Vincent, dean of Paul's, on his death-bed, it was known, and by him confessed, that he himself was the author thereof, by hiring an Italian, for sixty crowns or thereabouts, to do the feat. For the testimonywhereof, and also for the repentant words of the said Intent, the names both of them that heard him confess it, and of them that heard the witnesses report it, remain yet in memory, to be produced, if need required.

The cause why he was so little favoured by the clergy, was this: for that he was known to be a man of great courage, and one that could both speak, and also would be heard: for at the same time he was one of the burgesses of the parliament for the city of London, and had talked somewhat against the covetousness and cruelty of the clergy; wherefore he was had in contempt with them, and was thought also to have some talk with the king; for which he was the more had in disdain with them, and murdered by the said Dr. Intent for his labour, as hath been above declared.

And thus much of Robert Packington, who was the brother of Austin Packington above mentioned, who deceived Bishop Tonstal, in buying the new translated Testament of Tyndale: whose piteous murder, although it was privy and sudden, yet hath it so pleased the Lord not to keep it in darkness, but to bring it at length to light.

The burning of one Collins at London.

Illustration -- Collins burned at the stake

Neither is here to be omitted the burning of one Collins, some time a lawyer and a gentleman, which suffered the fire this year also in Smithfield, A.D. 1538; whom although I do not here recite as in the number of God's professed martyrs, yet neither do I think him to be clean sequestered from the company of the Lord's saved flock and family, notwithstanding that the bishop of Rome's church did condemn and burn him for a heretic; but rather do recount him therefore as one belonging to the holy company of saints. At leastwise this case of him and of his end may be thought to be such as may well reprove and condemn their cruelty and madness, in burning so, without all discretion, this man, being mad, and distract of his perfect wits, as he then was, by this occasion as here followeth:

This gentleman had a wife of exceeding beauty and comeliness, but, notwithstanding, of so light behaviour and unchaste conditions, (nothing correspondent to the grace of her beauty,) that she, forsaking her husband, which loved her entirely, betook herself unto another paramour; which thing when he understood, he took it very grievously and heavily, more than reason would. At the last, being overcome with exceeding dolour and heaviness, he fell mad, being at that time a student of the law in London. When he was thus ravished of his wits, by chance he came into a church where a priest was saying mass, and was come to the place where they use to hold up and show the sacrament.

Collins, being beside his wits, seeing the priest holding up the host over his head, and showing it to the people, he, in like manner counterfeiting the priest, took up a little dog by the legs, and held him over his head, showing him unto the people. And for this he was, by and by, brought to examination, and condemned to the fire, and was burned, and the dog with him, the same year in which John Lambert was burned, A.D. 1538.

The burning of Cowbridge at Oxford, A.D. 1538.

With this aforesaid Collins may also be adjoined the

burning of Cowbridge, who likewise, being mad and beside his right senses, was, either the same, or the next year following, condemned by Longland, bishop of Lincoln, and committed to the fire by him to be burned at Oxford.

The fruitful seed of the gospel at this time had taken such root in England, that now it began manifestly to spring and show itself in all places, and in all sorts of people, as it may appear in this good man Cowbridge; who, coming of a good stock and family, whose ancestors, even from Wickliff's time hitherto, had been always favourers of the gospel, and addicted to the setting forth thereof inthe English tongue, was born at Colchester, his father's name being William Cowbridge, a wealthy man, and head bailiff of Colchester, and of great estimation.

This man, at his decease, left unto his son great substance and possessions, which he afterwards abandoning and distributing unto his sisters and kindred, he himself went about the countries, sometimes seeking after learned men, and sometimes, according to his ability, instructing the ignorant. Thus he continued a certain space, until such time as he came to a town in Berkshire, named Wantage, where, after he had by a long season exercised the office of a priest, in teaching and administering of the sacraments, but being no priest indeed, and had converted many unto the truth, he was at last apprehended and taken, as suspected of heresy, and carried to a place beside Wickham, to the bishop of Lincoln, to be examined; by whom he was sent to Oxford, and there cast into the prison called Bocardo.

At that time Dr. Smith and Dr. Cotes governed the divinity schools, who, together with other divines and doctors, seemed not in this point to show the duty which the most meek apostle requireth in divines toward such as are fallen into any error, or lack instruction or learning. For, admit that he did not understand or see so much in the doctrine and controversies of divinity as the learned divines did, yet Paul, writing unto the Romans, and in others places also, saith, that the weak are to be received into the faith, and not to the determination of disputations; but the imbecility of the weak is to be borne by them that are stronger, &c. And in another place, we understand the spirit of lenity and gentleness to be requisite in such as are spiritual, who shall have to do with the weak flock of Christ. But, alas! it is a sorrowful thing to see how far these divines are separate from the rule of the apostolic meekness, who, after they had this poor man fast entangled in their prison of Bocardo with famine and hunger, brought this poor servant of Christ unto that point, that, through the long consumption and lack of sleep, his natural strength being consumed, he lost his wits and reason; whereby (as it is the manner of mad-men) he uttered many unseemly and indiscreet words: whereupon the divines spread rumours abroad that there was a heretic at Oxford, who could abide to hear the name of Jesu, but not the name of Christ, to be named; and therefore that he ought to be burned: and so thereupon condemned him. That done, they sent the articles, whereupon he was condemned, up to London, unto the lord chancellor, at that time being the Lord Audley, requiring of him a writ to put him to execution; of which articles we could only attain to knowledge and understanding but of two, which were these:

"First, That in the second article of the Creed, he would not have it Et in Jesum Christum, &c., but Et in Jesum Jesum, &c. The second, That every poor priest, be he ever so poor or needy, being of a good conversation, hath as great power and authority in the church of God and ministration of the sacraments, as the pope or any other bishops.

What all his opinions and articles were, wherewith he was charged, it needeth not here to rehearse; for as he was then a man mad, and destitute of sense and reason, so his words and sayings could not be sound. Yea rather, what wise man would ever collect articles against him, which said he could not tell what? And if his articles were so horrible and mad as Cope in his Dialogues doth declare them, then was he, in my judgment, a man more fit to be sent to Bedlam, than to be had to the fire in Smithfield to be burned. For what reason is it to require reason of a creature mad or unreasonable, or to make heresy of the words of a senseless man, not knowing what he affirmed?

But this is the manner and property of this holy mother church of Rome, that whatsoever cometh in their hands and inquisition, to the fire it must. There is no other way; neither pity that will move,nor excuse that will serve, nor age that they will spare, nor any respect almost that they consider, as by these two miserable examples, both of Collins and Cowbridge, it may appear; who rather should have been pitied, and all ways convenient sought how to reduce the silly wretches into their right minds again; according as the true pastors of Israel be commanded, by the Spirit of God, to seek again the things that be lost, and to bind up the things that be broken, &c., and not so extremely to burst the things that be bruised before.

But, to end with this matter of Cowbridge, whatsoever his madness was before, or howsoever erroneous his articles were, (which, for the fond fantasies of them, I do not express,) yet, as touching his end, this is certain, that, when the day appointed was come, this meek lamb of Christ was brought forth unto the slaughter with a great band of armed men; and, being made fast in the midst of the fire, (contrary to their expectation,) oftentimes calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, with great meekness and quietness he yielded his spirit into the hands of the Lord.

Putteden and Leiton, martyrs.

About the same time and year, or not much before, when John Lambert suffered at London, there was one Puttedew also condemned to the fire, about the parts of Suffolk; who, coming into the church, and merrily telling the priest, that after he had drunk up all the wine alone, he afterwards blessed the hungry people with the empty chalice, was for the same immediately apprehended, and shortly after burned, leaving to us an experiment, Quam parum sit tutum ludere cum sanctis, as the old saying was then; but rather, as we may see now, Quam male tutum sit ludere cum impiis.

The great and almost infinite number of most holy martyrs, the variety of matter, and the great celerity used in writing this story, is such, that we cannot use such exact diligence in perusing them all, or have so perfect memory in keeping the order of years, but that, sometimes, we shall somewhat the more swerve or go astray; whereby it hath happened that this man William Leiton, as it were lying hidden among a great multitude of others, had almost escaped our hands; whom, notwithstanding that we have somewhat passed his time, yet do we not think meet to omit, or leave out of this catalogue or history.

This William Leiton was a monk of Eye in the county of Suffolk, and was burned at Norwich, for speaking against a certain idol which was accustomed to be carried about in the processions at Eye; and also for holding that the sacramental supper ought to be administered in both kinds; about the year and time aforesaid.

The burning of N. Peke, martyr, at Ipswich.

In the burning of another Suffolk man, named N. Peke, dwelling some time at Earlstonham, and burned at Ipswich somewhat before the burning of these aforesaid, thus I find it recorded and testified; that when he, being fast bound to a stake, and furze set on fire round about him, was so scorched that he was as black as soot, one Dr. Redyng, there standing before him, with Dr. Heyre and Dr. Springwell, having a long white wand in his hand, did knock him upon the right shoulder, and said, "Peke! recant, and believe that the sacrament of the altar is the very body of Christ, flesh, blood, and bone, after that the priest hath spoken the words of consecration over it; and here have I in my hand to absolve thee for thy misbelief that hath been in thee;" having a scroll of paper in his hand. When he had spoken these words, Peke answered, and said, "I defy it, and thee also;" and with a great violence he spit from him very blood, which came by reason that his veins brake in his body for extreme anguish. And when the said Peke had so spoken, then Dr. Redyng said, "To as many as shall cast a stick to the burning of this heretic, is granted forty days of pardon by my lord bishop of Norwich."

Then Baron Curson, Sir John Audley, knight, with many others of estimation, being there present, did rise from their seats, and with their swords did cut down boughs, and throw them into the fire, and so did all the multitude of the people. Witness John Ramsey and others, who did see this act.

Previous Next