Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 263. THE BOW CONGREGATION

263. THE BOW CONGREGATION

 

Master Rose with thirty persons taken at a communion in Row Churchyard. Anno 1555.

N new-year's day at night following, certain honest men and women of the city, to the number of thirty, and a minister with them named Master Rose, were taken as they were in a house in Bow Churchyard at the communion, and the same night they were all committed to prison. And on the Thursday following, being the third of January, Master Rose was before the bishop of Winchester, being lord chancellor; and from thence the same day he was committed to the Tower, after certain communication had between the bishop and him.

            As touching the taking of Master Rose and his fellows, word was brought thereof to that godly man and dear martyr of God, Master Hooper, being then in the Fleet, in words as followeth.

 

A letter sent to Master Hooper, concerning the taking of a godly company in Bow Churchyard, at their prayer.

            "My duty humbly remembered:-- You hear, I know, of a godly company imprisoned, which were taken upon new-year night. Yet notwithstanding, forasmuch, perhaps, as you know not perfectly how nor wherefore, you shall understand that being upon their knees in ending of prayer, (wherein they gave God thanks, prayed for the magistrates and estates of the realm, and required things necessary at his bountiful hands,) two of my Lord Chancellor's men, as I am informed, came first into the chamber where they were, in Bow Churchyard; and, immediately afterwards, followed Master Sheriff with others, who commanded them all to stay, in the king's and queens Majesty's names: whereunto they humbly obeyed. For they came not thither weaponed, to conspire or make any tumult, but only like Christians, Christianly to pray, and to be instructed, in the vulgar tongue, by the reading and hearing of God's word; as their conscience did enforce them, without the displeasure of God, to do.

            "For, as you well know, there is nothing so grievous to the patient in this world, as the gnawing and biting worm of a troubled conscience; being accused by God's law for the wilful transgression of the same. This, by experience, we know by Judge Hales: who, contrary to the knowledge of God's word, consented to the wicked traditions of the papists, who, although in name they would be of the holy church and preachers of the gospel of Christ, yet, in fact and deed, do dissent from the same, and most detest that godly society; as by the cruel handling of the Christians by the prelates, at this present time, it doth evidently appear. Therefore, I say, that they might, without the offence of God, quietly pray together, as they he taught by his word, there assembled a godly company together, to the number of thirty: divided and sent to both the compters, where, at commandment, they yet remain. And with Master Chambers, Master Monger, and the rest in the compter at Bread Street, I was yesterday; who (God he thanked!) be strong, and do rejoice that for well-doing they are imprisoned: not doubting, but that as God hath vouchsafed to accept them worthy to sustain imprisonment for his sake, so he will strengthen them, rather to suffer death than to deny his truth; as the Lord knoweth, who assist you with his Holy Spirit, that unto the end you may persevere in his truth: unto whose tuition, in my poor prayer, I humbly commend you. January the third, 1555. Master Chambers, Master Monger, Master Sh * * *, and the rest in the compter do pray for you, and, in Christ, salute you most heartily."

            Whereupon the said Master Hooper sendeth answer again, with a letter also of consolation sent to the said prisoners; the copy whereof I thought here not to overpass.

 

The answer of Master Hooper to a letter sent unto him concerning certain prisoners taken in Bow Churchyard.

            "The grace of God be with you, Amen. I perceive by your letter, how that upon new-year's day at night, there were taken a godly company of Christians, whilst they were praying. I do rejoice in that men can be so well occupied in this perilous time, and flee unto God for remedy by prayer, as well for their own lacks and necessities, as also charitably to pray for them that persecute them. So doth the word of God command all men to pray charitably for them that hate them, and not to revile any magistrate with words, or to mean him evil by force or violence. They also may rejoice, that in well-doing they were taken to the prison. Wherefore I have thought it good to send them this little writing of consolation; praying God to send them patience, charity, and constancy in the truth of his most holy word. Thus fare you well, and pray God to send his true word into this realm again amongst us, which the ungodly bishops have now banished.

            "January 4, A.D. 1555."

 

A letter of consolation sent from .Master Hooper, to the godly brethren taken in Bow Churchyard in prayer, and laid in the compter in Bread Street.

            "The grace, favour, consolation, and aid of the Holy Ghost, be with you now and ever. So be it.

            "Dearly beloved in the Lord, ever since your imprisonment I have been marvellously moved with great affections and passions, as well of mirth and gladness, as of heaviness and sorrow. Of gladness in this, that I perceived how ye be bent and given to prayer and invocation of God's help in these dark and wicked proceedings of men against God's glory. I have been sorry to perceive the malice and wickedness of men to be so cruel, devilish, and tyrannical, to persecute the people of God for serving of God, saying and hearing of the holy Psalms, and the word of eternal life. These cruel doings do declare, that the papists' church is more bloody and tyrannical, than ever was the sword of the Ethnics and Gentiles.

            "When I heard of your taking, and what ye were doing, wherefore, and by whom ye were taken, I remembered how the Christians, in the primitive church, were used by the cruelty of unchristened heathens, in the time of Trajan the emperor, about seventy-seven years after Christ's ascension into heaven; and how the Christians were persecuted very sore, as though they had been traitors and movers of sedition: whereupon the gentle emperor Trajan required to know the true cause of Christian men's trouble. A great learned man, called Pliny, wrote unto him, and said, It was because the Christians said certain Psalms before day unto one called Christ, whom they worshipped for God. When Trajan the emperor understood it was for nothing but for conscience and religion, he caused by his commandments every where, that no man should be persecuted for serving of God. Lo! a Gentile and heathen man would not have such as were of a contrary religion punished for serving of God: but the pope and his church hath cast you into prison, being taken even doing the work of God, and one of the excellentest works that is required of Christian men: that is to wit, whilst ye were in prayer, and not in such wicked and superstitious prayers as the papists use, but in the same prayer that Christ hath taught you to pray. And in his name only ye gave God thanks for that ye have received, and for his sake ye asked for such things as ye want. Oh! glad may ye be that ever ye were born, to be apprehended whilst ye were so virtuously occupied. Blessed be they that suffer for righteousness' sake: for if God had suffered them that took your bodies, then to have taken your life also, now had you been following the Lamb in perpetual joys, away from the company and assembly of wicked men. But the Lord would not have you suddenly so to depart, but reserveth you, gloriously to speak and maintain his truth to the world.

            "Be ye not careful what ye shall say, for God will go out and in with you, and will be present in your hearts, and in your mouths to speak his wisdom, although it seemeth foolishness to the world. He that hath begun this good work in you, continue you in the same unto the end; and pray unto him that ye may fear him only, that hath power to kill both body and soul, and to cast them into hell-fire. Be of good comfort. All the hairs of your head are numbered, and there is not one of them can perish, except your heavenly Father suffer it to perish. Now ye be in the field, and placed in the fore-front of Christ's battle. Doubtless it is a singular favour of God, and a special love of him towards you, to give you this fore-ward and pre-eminence, as a sign that he trusteth you before others of his people. Wherefore, dear brethren and sisters, continually fight this fight of the Lord. Your cause is most just and godly; ye stand for the true Christ, (who is after the flesh in heaven,) and for his true religion and honour, which is amply, fully, sufficiently, and abundantly contained in the holy Testament, sealed with Christ's own blood. How much be ye bound to God, who puts you in trust with so holy and just a cause!

            "Remember what lookers-on you have, to see and behold you in your fight: God and all his angels, who be ready always to take you up into heaven, if ye be slain in this fight. Also you have standing at your backs all the multitude of the faithful, who shall take courage, strength, and desire, to follow such noble and valiant Christians as you be. Be not afraid of your adversaries: for he that is in you, is stronger than he that is in them. Shrink not, although it be pain to you: your pains be not now so great, as hereafter your joys shall be. Read the comfortable eighth, tenth, and fifteenth chapters to the Romans, and the eleventh and twelfth to the Hebrews. And upon your knees thank God that ever ye were accounted worthy to suffer any thing for his name's sake. Read the second chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, and there you shall see how the shepherds that watched upon their sheep all night, as soon as they heard that Christ was born at Bethlehem, by and by went to see him. They did not reason nor debate with themselves, who should keep the wolf from the sheep in the mean time, but did as they were commanded, and committed their sheep unto him, whose pleasure they obeyed. So let us do, now we be called; commit all other things to him that calleth us. He will take heed that all things shall be well. He will help the husband, he will comfort the wife, he will guide the servants, he will keep the house, he will preserve the goods; yea, rather than it should be undone, he will wash the dishes, and rock the cradle. Cast therefore all your care upon God, for he careth for you.

            "Besides this, you may perceive by your imprisonment, that your adversaries' weapons against you be nothing but flesh, blood, and tyranny. For if they were able, they would maintain their wicked religion by God's word: but, for lack of that, they would violently compel us, as they cannot by Holy Scripture persuade; because the holy word of God, and all Christ's doings, be contrary unto them. I pray you, pray for me; and I will pray for you. And although we be asunder after the world, yet in Christ (I trust) for ever joining in the Spirit: and so shall meet in the palace of the heavenly joys, after this short and transitory life is ended. God's peace be with you. Amen.

            "The 14th of January, 1555."

            On the Friday following, being the eighteenth of January, all the council went unto the Tower, and there the same day discharged and set at liberty all the prisoners of the Tower, or the most part of them, namely, the late duke of Northumberland's sons, Ambrose, Robert, and Henry; Sir Andrew Dudley, Sir John Rogers, Sir James Crofts, Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, Sir Nicholas Arnold, Sir George Harper, Sir Edward Warner, Sir William Sent-low, Sir Gawin Carew, Master Gibbs, Cuthbert Vaughan, with many others.

            On the Tuesday following, being the twenty-second of January, all the preachers that were in prison were called before the bishop of Winchester, lord chancellor, and certain others, at the bishop's house at St. Mary Overy's; from whence (after communication, being asked whether they would convert and enjoy the queen's pardon, or else stand to that they had taught; they all answering, that they would stand to that they had taught) they were committed to straiter prison than before they were, with charge that none should speak with them.

            Among this number of prisoners, one James George the same time died in prison, being there in bands for religion and righteousness' sake; who therefore was exempted to be buried in the popish churchyard, and was buried in the fields.

            On the Wednesday following, being the twenty-third of January, all the bishops with the rest of the Convocation-house were before the cardinal at Lambeth, where he willed them to repair every man where his cure and charge lay, exhorting them to entreat the people and their flock with all gentleness, and to endeavour themselves, to win the people rather by gentleness, than by extremity and rigour: and so let them depart.

            On the Friday following, being the twenty-fifth of January, and the day of the conversion of St. Paul, there was a general and solemn procession through London, to give God thanks for their conversion to the catholic church: wherein (to set out their glorious pomp) there were fourscore and ten crosses, and one hundred and sixty priests and clerks, who had every one of them copes upon their backs, singing very lustily. There followed also, for the better estimation of the sight, eight bishops; and, last of all, came Bonner, the bishop of London, carrying the popish pix under a canopy.

            Besides, there was also present the mayor, aldermen, and all the livery of every occupation. Moreover, the king also himself, and the cardinal, came to Paul's church the same day. From whence, after mass, they returned to Westminster again. As the king was entered the church at the steps going up to the choir, all the gentlemen that of late were set at liberty out of the Tower, kneeled before the king, and offered unto him themselves and their services.

            After the procession there was also commandment given to make bonfires at night; whereupon did rise among the people a doubtful talk, why all this was done. Some said it was that the queen, being (as they said) with child, might have a safe delivery. Others thought that it was for joy that the realm was joined again to the see of Rome; which opinion, of both, seemed most true.

            On the Monday following, being the twenty-eighth of January, the bishop of Winchester and the other bishops had commission from the cardinal to sit upon, and order, according to the laws, all such preachers and heretics (as they termed them) as were in prison; and according to this commission, the same day the bishop of Winchester and the other bishops, with certain of the council, sat in St. Mary Overy's church, and called before them these three, Master Hooper, Master Rogers, and Master Cardmaker, who were brought thither by the sheriffs; from whence after communication they were committed to prison till the next day, but Cardmaker this day submitted himself unto them.

            On the Tuesday, being the twenty-ninth of January, Hooper, Rogers, Dr. Taylor, and Bradford were brought before them; where sentence of excommunication and judgment ecclesiastical was pronounced upon Master Hooper and Master Rogers, by the bishop of Winchester, who sat as judge in Caiaphas's seat; who drave them out of the church, according to their law and order. Dr. Taylor and Bradford were committed to prison till the next day.

            On the Wednesday, being the thirtieth of January, Dr. Taylor, Dr. Crome, Master Bradford, Master Saunders, and Dr. Ferrar, sometime bishop of St. David's, were before the said bishops; where three of them, that is to say, Dr. Taylor, Master Saunders, and Master Bradford, were likewise excommunicated, and sentence pronounced upon them; and so committed to the sheriffs. Dr. Crome desired two months' respite, and it was granted him; and Master Ferrar was again committed to prison till another time. All these men showed themselves to be learned, as indeed they were no less: but what availeth either learning, reason, or truth itself, where will beareth rule?

            After the examination and condemnation of these good men and preachers above recited, commissions and inquisitors were sent abroad likewise into all parts of the realm: by reason whereof, a great number of most godly and true Christians out of all the quarters of the realm (but especially Kent, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk) were apprehended, brought up to London, cast into prison; and afterwards, most of them, either consumed cruelly by fire, or else through evil handling died in the prisons, and were buried on the dunghills abroad in the fields, or in some backside of the prison. Of all which matters, concerning the tragical handling of the blessed martyrs and witnesses of Jesus Christ -- of all the bloody persecution of this time -- now followeth (the Lord so granting) severally and more particularly in this next book in order to be declared: after that I shall first recite a general supplication, given up in the name of the preachers aforesaid lying in prison, unto the king and queen, during the time of the parliament, as followeth

            "Unto the king and queen's most excellent Majesties, and to their most honourable and high court of parliament.

            "In most humble and lamentable wise complain unto your Majesties, and to your high court of parliament, your poor desolate and obedient subjects, H. F. T. B., P. R. S., &c. That whereas your said subjects, living under the laws of God and of this realm, in the days of the late most noble King Edward the Sixth, did in all things show themselves true, faithful, and diligent subjects, according to their vocation, as well in the sincere ministering of God's most holy word, as in due obedience to the higher powers, and in the daily practice of such virtues and good demeanour, as the laws of God at all times, and the statutes of the realm did then, allow: your said subjects nevertheless, contrary to all laws of justice, equity, and right, are in very extreme manner not only cast into prison, (where they have remained now these fifteen or sixteen months,) but their livings also, their houses and possessions, their goods and books, taken from them, and they slandered to be most heinous heretics, their enemies themselves being both witnesses, accusers, and judges; belying, slandering, and misreporting your said subjects at their pleasure, whereas your said subjects, being straitly kept in prison, cannot yet be suffered to come forth, and make answer accordingly.

            "In consideration whereof, may it please your most excellent Majesties, and this your high court of parliament, graciously to tender the present calamity of your said poor subjects, and to call them before your presence, granting them liberty, either by mouth or writing, in the plain English tongue, to answer before you, or before indifferent arbiters to be appointed by your Majesties, unto such articles of controversy in religion as their said adversaries have already condemned them of, as of heinous heresies: provided that all things may be done with such moderation and quiet behaviour, as becometh subjects and children of peace, and that your said subjects may have the free use of all their own books, and conference together among themselves.

            "Which thing being granted, your said subjects doubt not but it shall plainly appear, that your said subjects are true and faithful Christians, and neither heretics, neither teachers of heresy, nor cut off from the true catholic universal church of Christ: yea, that rather their adversaries themselves be unto your Majesties as were the charmers of Egypt to Pharaoh, Zedechias and his adherents unto the king of Israel, and Bar-Jesu to the proconsul Sergius Paulus. And if your said subjects be not able, by the testimony of Christ, his prophets, apostles, and godly fathers of his church, to prove that the doctrine of the church, homilies, and service taught and set forth in the time of our late most godly prince and king, Edward the Sixth, is the true doctrine of Christ's catholic church, and most agreeable to the articles of the Christian faith; your said subjects offer themselves then to the most heavy punishment that it shall please your Majesties to appoint.

            "Wherefore, for the tender mercy of God in Christ, (which you look for at the day of judgment,) your said poor subjects in bonds most humbly beseech your most excellent Majesties, and this your high court of parliament, benignly and graciously to hear and grant this their petition, tending so greatly to the glory of God, to the edifying of his church, to the honour of your Majesties, to the commendation and maintenance of justice, right, and equity both before God and man. And your said subjects, according to their bounden duty, shall not cease to pray unto Almighty God for the gracious preservation of your most excellent Majesties long to endure."

 

END OF PART 4.

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