Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 221. PERSECUTION IN KENT.

221. PERSECUTION IN KENT.

N revolving the registers of William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, I find, moreover, besides these above comprehended, in the time and reign of King Henry; the names of divers others, whereof some suffered martyrdom for the like testimony of God's word, and some recanted; which, albeit here they do come a little out of order, and should have been placed before, in the beginning of King Henry's reign, yet, rather than they should utterly be omitted, I thought here to give them a place, though somewhat out of time, yet not altogether, I trust, without fruit unto the reader; being no less worthy to be registered and preserved from oblivion, than others of their fellows before them.

 

A table of certain true servants of God and martyrs omitted, which mere burned in the diocese of Canterbury, under William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury; with the names of their persecutors and accusers, A. D. 1511.

            Martyrs:-- William Carder, of Tenterden, weaver. Agnes Grebil, of Tenterden, wife of John Grebil the elder, and mother to John and Christopher Grebil, who, with her own husband, accused her to death, being threescore years of age; Robert Harrison, of Halden, of the age of sixty years; John Browne, of Ashford; Edward Walker, of Maidstone, cutler.

            Accusers and witnesses:-- William Rich, of Benenden; Agnes Ive, of Canterbury; Robert Hills, of Tenterden; Stephen Castelin, of Tenterden; John Grebil, of Tenterden, husband to Agnes Grebil the martyr; Christopher Grebil, the natural son of Agnes Grebil the martyr; John Grebil the younger, the natural son of Agnes Grebil the martyr; William Olbert, of Godmersham; Lawrence Chyterden; Thomas Harwood, of Rolvenden; Joan Harwood, his wife; Philip Harwood; William Baker, of Cranbrook; Edward Walker; Robert Reynold, of Benenden.

            Persecutors and judges:-- William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury; Dr. Cuthbert Tonstal, doctor of both laws, and chancellor of the archbishop; Dr. Sylvester, lawyer; Dr. Wells; Dr. Clement; Dr. Brown; Dr. John Collet, dean of Paul's; Dr. Wodington.

            The articles whereupon these five blessed martyrs were accused and condemned by the aforesaid judges and witnesses were these:

            "First, For holding that the sacrament of the altar was not the true and very body of Christ, but only material bread in substance.

            "II. That auricular confession was not to be made to a priest.

            "III. That no power is given of God to priests, of ministering sacraments, saying mass, or other Divine service, more than to laymen.

            "IV. That the solemnization of matrimony is not necessary to salvation of soul, neither was instituted of God; for a sacrament, they meant.

            "V. That the sacrament of extreme unction is not available, nor necessary to soul's health.

            "VI. That the images of the cross, of the crucifix, of the blessed Virgin, and other saints, are not to be worshipped; and that those who worship them do commit idolatry.

            "VII. That pilgrimages to holy places, and holy relics, be not necessary, nor meritorious to soul's health.

            "VIII. That invocation is not to be made to saints, but only to God, and that he only heareth their prayers.

            "IX. That holy bread and holy water have no more virtue after their consecration, than before.

            "X. That they have believed, taught, and holden all and every of the same damnable opinions before; as they did at that present.

            "XI. That whereas they now have confessed their errors, they would not have so done, but only for fear of manifest proofs brought against them, or else but for fear to be convicted by them: they would never have confessed the same of their own accord.

            "XII. That they have communed and talked of the said damnable errors heretofore, with divers other persons, and have had books concerning the same."

 

The order and form of process used against these martyrs aforesaid: and first of William Carder, A. D. 1511.

            William Carder, being convented before William Warham, archbishop, and his chancellor Cuthbert Tonstal, Doctors Sylvester, Wells, Clement, Brown, with others more, the notaries being William Potking, and David Cooper, the articles and interrogatories above specified were laid unto him. Which articles he there and then denied, affirming that he never did nor doth hold any such opinions, otherwise than becometh that every Christian man should do, ready to conform himself in all points to their doctrine; and therefore, to clear himself the better against those interrogatories objected against him, he stood in denial of the same. The like also did every of the other four martyrs after him.

            All which notwithstanding, the uncharitable archbishop, seeking all advantages against him that he might, and more than right law would give, brought in against him such witnesses as before were abjured, who, he knew, for fear of relapse, durst do none other but disclose whatsoever they knew; to wit, Christopher Grebil, William Rich, Agnes Ive, John Grebil, Robert Hills, and Stephen Castelin: whose depositions being taken, and the said Carder being asked what he could say for himself, he had nothing, he said, to produce against their attestations, but submitted him unto their mercy: saying, moreover, that if he had ever any misbelief of the sacraments of the church, contrary to the common holding of the catholics, he now was sorry and repented him thereof. Which being done, the archbishop, this his submission notwithstanding, and notwithstanding that the register maketh no mention of any relapse, contrary to good law, at least contrary to all Christian charity, proceeded to the reading of his blind sentence; and so condemned him, who neither stood stubbornly to that which he did hold, neither yet did hold any thing contrary to the mind of Holy Scripture, to the execution of burning.

            Then after him was called forth Agnes Grebil, and examined of the said twelve articles above recited, which she, in like manner, denied, as the other had done before, putting her adversaries to their proof. Then the archbishop, calling for John Grebil her husband, and Christopher and John Grebil her two sons, (who before had been abjured,) caused them, upon their oath, to depose against their own natural mother; and so they did.

            First John Grebil the elder, her husband, examined, by virtue of his oath, to say how Agnes, his wife, hath and doth believe of the sacrament of the altar, of going in pilgrimage, offerings and worshipping of saints, images, &c., and how long she hath thus holden, deposed thus:

            "That first, about the end of King Edward the Fourth's days, in his house, by the teaching of John Ive, she [Agnes, his wife] was brought to that belief; and so forth from thence daily, until the time of detection, she hath continued.

            "And besides that," said he, "when my children Christopher and John, being about seven years of age, were then taught of me in my house the said error of the sacrament of the altar, and by the said Agnes my wife divers times, she was always of one mind in the said misbelief against the sacrament of the altar, that it was not Christ's body, flesh and blood, but only bread." Furthermore, being examined how he knew that she was stedfast in the said error, he said, "that she always without contradiction affirmed this teaching, and said, the said opinion was good, and was well contented that her children aforesaid were of the same opinions against the sacrament of the altar," &c.

            The bishop, with his catholic doctors, not yet contented with this, to set the husband against the wife, proceeding further in their catholic zeal, caused her two children, Christopher and John, to be produced, one of the age of two-and-twenty, the other of nineteen, against their own natural mother; who likewise, being pressed with their oath, witnessed and said:

            "That the aforesaid Agnes, their mother, held, believed, taught, and defended, that the sacrament of the altar was but bread, and not the very body of Christ's flesh and blood: that baptism was no better in the font, than out of the font: that confirmation was of no effect: that the solemnization of matrimony was no sacrament: that confession to God alone was sufficient: also that going in pilgrimage and worshipping of saints and images was of none effect," &c.

            "Item, That their father and the said Agnes their mother, held, taught, and communed of the said errors within their houses divers times, by the space of those three years past, as well on holy-days as working days, affirming and teaching that the said opinions were good and lawful, and to be holden and maintained; and agreement was made amongst them, that none of them should discover or bewray either of these beliefs in any wise.

            "Finally, That they never heard their said father and mother holding or teaching any other opinions, than be the said errors against the sacrament of the altar, and pilgrimages, offerings, worshipping of saints and images, as far as they could remember," &c.

            Here hast thou, Christian reader, before thine eyes a horrid spectacle of a singular, yea of a double impiety; first of an unnatural husband, witnessing against his own wife; and of as unnatural children, accusing and witnessing against their own natural mother: which although they had so done, the cause being of itself just and true, (as it was not,) yet had they done more than nature would have led them to do. Now the case being such as which, by God's word, standeth firm, sound, and perfect, what impiety were it for men to accuse a poor innocent in case of heresy, which is no heresy! Now, besides all this, the husband to come in against his own wife, and the children to bring the knife wherewith to cut the throat of their own natural mother that bare them, that nourished them, that brought them up, what is this, but impiety upon impiety, prodigious and horrible for all Christian ears to hear! And yet the greatest impiety of all resteth in these pretended catholics and clergy. men, which were the authors and causers of all this mischief.

            The cause why this good woman so stood, as she did, in the denial of these aforesaid articles objected, was this; for that she never thought that her husband and her own children, who only were privy to her religion, would testify against her. Whom notwithstanding after she perceived to come in, and to depose thus against her, denying still (as she did before) that she did ever hold such manner of errors, and being now destitute of all friends and comfort, burst out in these words openly, (as the register reporteth,) "that she repented the time that ever she bare those children of her body." And thus the archbishop with his doctors having now the thing that they sought for, albeit she was ready to deny all errors, and to conform herself to their religion, yet, notwithstanding, they, refusing her readiness and conformity, proceeded to their sentence, and so condemned her to death.

            After whose condemnation, next was brought to examination Robert Harrison, whom, in like manner, because he stood in his denial, contrary witnesses against him were produced, to wit, Christopher Grebil, William Rich, William Olbert, Agnes Ive, who, a little before, had been abjured, and therefore were so much the more apt and appliable to serve the bishop's humour, for danger of relapse. After the deposition and conviction of which witnesses, although he submitted himself to repentance and conformity, yet, notwithstanding, it would not not be received, but sentence was read, and he condemned with the other two aforesaid to the fire.

            And thus these three were condemned and burned, and certificate given up of them together to the king, from Warham the archbishop, upon the same, A. D. 1511, May 2.

            Over and besides these three godly martyrs above recited, I find in the aforesaid registers of William Warham, two other like godly martyrs also in the same year, and for the same twelve articles above specified, to be condemned upon the depositions of certain witnesses brought in against them, to wit, Thomas Harwood, Philip Harwood, Stephen Castelin, William Baker, Robert Reynold, John Bampton, Robert Bright, William Rich, &c.; whereupon they were adjudged likewise for heretics to be burned, the year aforesaid, 1511. The names of which two martyrs were John Brown and Edward Walker.

            Moreover, besides these five blessed saints of God, whom they so cruelly by their sentence did condemn to death, we find also, in the same registers of William Warham, a great number of others whom they, for the same doctrine and like articles, caused to be apprehended and put to open recantation; the names of which persons in the catalogue here following be these.

            A table containing the names of them that were abjured in the diocese of Canterbury, at the same time, under William Warham, archbishop.

            A. D. 1511.-- John Grebil the elder; also Christopher Grebil and John Grebil, sons of John Grebil the elder; all of Benenden. William Rich, of Benenden. W. Olbert the elder, of Godmersham. Agnes Ive, and Agnes Chytenden, both of Canterbury. Thomas Manning, of Benenden. Joan Colin; Robert Hills; and Alice Hills, his wife; all of Tenterden. Thomas Harwood, Joan Harwood, his wife, and Philip Harwood, all of Rolvenden. Stephen Castelin, of Tenterden. W. Baker, of Cranbrook; Margaret Baker, his wife. William Olbert the younger, and Robert Reynold, both of Godmersham. Agnes Reynold, of Cranbook. Thomas Field, of Bexley. Joan Olbert, wife to W. Olbert the elder, of Godmersham. Elizabeth White, of Canterbury. Thomas Church, of Great Chart. Vincent Lynch, of Holden. John Rich, of Wittersham. John Lynch, of Tenterden. Thomas Browne, of Cranbrook. John Frank, of Tenterden. Joyce Bampton, wife of John Baropton, of Berstead. Richard Bampton, of Bexley. Robert Bright, of Maidstone. William Lorkin, of East Farleigh.

            A. D. 1512.--John Bannes, of Bexley. John Buckherst, of Staplehurst. Joan Dod, wife of John Dod. John Benet, of Staplehurst; Rebecca Benet, his wife. Joan Lewes, wife of Thomas Lowes of Cranbrook. Julian Hills, wife of Robert Hills, of Tenterden. Robert Franke, of Tenterden.

            The articles laid to these abjurers appear in the registers to be the same which before were objected to the other five martyrs aforesaid. Which were for believing and defending,

            "First, That the sacrament of the altar was not the very body of Christ, but material bread.

            "II. That confession of sins ought not to be made to a priest.

            "III. That there is no more power given of God to a priest, than to a layman.

            "IV. That the solemnization of matrimony is not necessary for the weal of man's soul.

            "V. That the sacrament of extreme unction, called anoiling, is not profitable nor necessary for man's soul.

            "VI. That pilgrimages to holy and devout places, be not necessary nor meritorious for man's soul.

            "VII. That images of saints, or of the crucifix, or of our Lady, are not to be worshipped.

            "VIII. That a man should pray to no saint, but only to God.

            "IX. That holy water, and holy bread, are not better after the benediction made by the priest."

            By these articles and abjurations of the before-named persons, thou hast to understand, Christian reader, what doctrine of religion was here stirring in this our realm of England, before the time that the name of Martin Luther was ever heard of here amongst us.

 

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