Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 275. WILLIAM PYGOT, STEPHEN KNIGHT, AND JOHN LAURENCE

275. WILLIAM PYGOT, STEPHEN KNIGHT, AND JOHN LAURENCE

            In the story before of Thomas Tomkins and his fellows, mention was made of six who were examined and condemned together, by Bishop Bonner, the ninth day of February. Of the which six condemned persons, two (which were Tomkins and William Hunter, as ye heard) were executed, the one upon the sixteenth of March, and the other upon the twenty-sixth day of March. Other three, to wit, William Pygot, and Stephen Knight, suffered upon the twenty-eighth day, and John Laurence the twenty-ninth of the said month of March.

            Touching the which three martyrs, (now something to say of their examinations,) it was first demanded of them, what their opinion was of the sacrament of the altar. Whereunto they severally answered, and also subscribed, that in the sacrament of the altar, under forms of bread and wine, there is not the very substance of the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, but a special partaking of the body and blood of Christ; the very body and blood of Christ being only in heaven, and no where else. This answer thus made, the bishop caused certain articles to be read unto them, tending to the same effect, as did the articles before of Tomkins and of Master Causton; the tenor whereof here followeth.

            "Whether do you think, and stedfastly believe, that it is a catholic, faithful, Christian, and true doctrine, to teach, preach, and say, that in the sacrament of the altar, under the forms of bread and wine, there is, without any substance of bread and wine there remaining, by the omnipotent power of Almighty God, and his holy word, really, truly, and in very deed, the true and natural body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, the selfsame in substance (though not in outward form and appearance) which was born of the Virgin Mary, and suffered upon the cross, yea, or nay?

            "Whether do you think, and stedfastly believe, that your parents, kinsfolk, friends, and acquaintance, here in this present realm of England, before your birth a great while, and also after your birth, professing and believing the said doctrine and faith concerning the said sacrament of the altar, had a true Christian faith, and were faithful and true Christian people, or no?

            "Whether do you think, and stedfastly believe, that your godfathers and godmother, professing and believing the said doctrine and faith concerning the said sacrament of the altar, had a true Christian faith, and were faithful and true Christian people, or no?

            "Whether do you think, and stedfastly believe, that your own self, in times past, being of the age of fourteen years and above, did think and believe concerning the said sacrament of the altar in all points, as your said parents, kinsfolks, friends, acquaintance, godfathers, and godmother, did then think and believe them, or no?

            "Whether do you think, and stedfastly believe, that our sovereigns the king and the queen of this realm of England, and all the nobility, clergy, and laity of this realm, professing and believing the said doctrine and faith, as other Christian realms do, concerning the said sacrament of the altar, have a true Christian faith, and believe as the catholic and true church of Christ hath always believed, preached, and taught, or no?

            "Whether do you think, and stedfastly believe, that our Saviour Christ and his Holy Spirit hath been, is, and shall be with his catholic church, even to the world's end, governing and ruling the same in all things, especially in the necessary points of Christian religion, not suffering the same to err, or to be deceived therein?

            "Whether is it true, that you being suspected, or infamed to be culpable and faulty in speaking against the sacrament of the altar, and against the very true presence of Christ's natural body, and the substance thereof in the said sacrament; and thereupon called before me upon complaint made to me against you; have not been a good space in my house, having freely meat and drink, and also divers times instructed and informed, as well by one being our ordinary, as also by my chaplains and divers other learned men, some whereof were bishops, some deans, and some archdeacons, and every one of them learned in divinity, and minding well unto you, and desiring the safeguard of your soul, and that you should follow and believe the doctrine of the catholic church, as afore, concerning the said sacrament of the altar; and whether you did not at all times since your said coming to me, utterly refuse to follow and believe the said doctrine concerning the said sacrament?

            "Whether can you now find in your heart andconscience to conform yourself in all points to the said faith and catholic church concerning the said sacrament of the altar, faithfully, truly, and plainly, without any dissimulation, believing therein as our said sovereigns, with the nobility, clergy, and laity of this realm, and other Christian realms, and other persons aforesaid, and also the said catholic church, have and do believe in that behalf?

            "In case you so cannot, what ground have you to maintain your opinion, and who is of the same opinion with you? and what conference have you had therein with any? what comfort and what relief have you had therein by any of them, and what are their names and surnames, and their dwelling-places?

            Their answers to these articles were not much discrepant from Tomkins, and other like martyrs above mentioned, as here followeth to be seen.

            "To the first article, they believe, that the contents of this article are not agreeable to Scripture.

            "To the second, they answer and believe, that their parents, and others expressed in the said article, and so believing as is contained in the same, were deceived.

            "To the third they answer, that they so believed; but they were deceived therein, as they now believe.

            "To the fourth they say, that they have heretofore believed as is contained in the said article; but now they do not so believe.

            "To fifth they say, that if they so believe, they are deceived.

            "To the sixth, they believe the same to be true.

            "To the seventh they answer, and believe the contents of the same to be true.

            "To the eighth they answer, that they can no whit conform themselves to the faith and doctrine contained and specified in this article, until it be proved by Scripture.

            "To the ninth they say, that they have no ground to maintain their said opinions, but the truth; which (as they said) hath been persuaded by learned men, as Dr. Taylor of Hadley, and such others."

            These answers being made and exhibited, they were commanded to appear again the next day, at eight o'clock in the morning, and, in the mean while, to bethink themselves what they would do.

 

Another appearance of Pygot, Knight, and Laurence before Bonner.

            The next day in the morning, being the ninth of February, before their open appearance, the bishop sent for William Pygot and Stephen Knight into his great chamber in his palace, where he persuaded with them to recant, and deny their former profession. Who answered, that they were not persuaded in their consciences to return and abjure their opinions, whereunto they had subscribed. Within awhile after, they were all three (with Thomas Tomkins and William Hunter aforenamed) brought openly into the consistory, the ninth day of February aforesaid, and there had the same articles propounded unto them, which were before propounded unto the aforesaid Thomas Tomkins, (as appeareth in the discourse of his history,) and thereto also subscribed these words, "I do so believe."

            The bishop also used certain talk unto John Laurence only; whereunto he answered in this manner: that he was a priest, and was consecrated and made a priest about eighteen years past; and that he was some time a Black Friar professed; that also he was assured unto a maid, whom he intended to have married.

            And being again demanded his opinion upon the sacrament, he said, that it was a remembrance of Christ's body, and that many have been deceived in believing the true body of Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar: and that all such as do not believe as he doth, do err.-- After this talk and other fair words and threatenings, they were all of them commanded to appear again at afternoon.

 

The third and last appearance of the aforesaid prisoners.

            At the which hour they came thither again, and there, after the accustomed manner, were exhorted to recant and revoke their doctrine, and receive the faith. To the which they constantly answered they would not, but would stick to that faith that they had declared and subscribed unto; for that they did believe that it was no error which they believed, but that the contrary thereof was very heresy.

            When the bishop saw that neither his fair flatterings, nor yet his cruel threatenings, would prevail, he gave them severally their judgments. And because John Laurence had been one of their anointed priests, he was by the bishop there (according to their order) solemnly degraded, the manner whereof you may see in the history of Master Hooper afore passed.

            Their sentence of condemnation and this degradation once ended, they were committed unto the custody of the sheriffs of London, who sent them unto Newgate, where they remained with joy together until they were carried down into Essex, and there, the twenty-eighth day of March, the said William Pygot was burned at Braintree; and Stephen Knight at Maldon, who, at the stake, kneeling upon the ground, said this prayer which here followeth.

            "O Lord Jesus Christ! for whose love I leave willingly this life, and desire rather the bitter death of thy cross, with the loss of all earthly things, than to abide the blasphemy of thy most holy name, or to obey men in breaking thy holy commandment: thou seest, O Lord, that whereas I might live in worldly wealth to worship a false god, and honour thine enemy, I choose rather the torment of the body and the loss of this my life, and have counted all things but vile, dust, and dung, that I might win thee; which death is dearer unto me, than thousands of gold and silver. Such love, O Lord, hast thou laid up in my breast, that I hunger for thee, as the deer that is wounded desireth the soil. Send thy holy Comforter, O Lord, to aid, comfort, and strengthen this weak piece of earth, which is empty of all strength of itself. Thou rememberest, O Lord, that I am but dust, and able to do nothing that is good: therefore, O Lord, as of thine accustomed goodness and love thou hast bidden me to this banquet, and accounted me worthy to drink of thine own cup amongst thine elect; even so give me strength, O Lord, against this thine element, which as to my sight it is most irksome and terrible, so to my mind it may, at thy commandment, (as an obedient servant,) be sweet and pleasant; that, through the strength of thy Holy Spirit, I may pass through the rage of this fire into thy bosom, according to thy promise, and for this mortal receive an immortal, and for this corruptible put on incorruption. Accept this burnt sacrifice and offering, O Lord, not for the sacrifice, but for thy dear Son's sake my Saviour, for whose testimony I offer this free-will offering with all my heart and with all my soul. O heavenly Father! forgive me my sins, as I forgive all the world. O sweet Son of God my Saviour! spread thy wings over me. O blessed and Holy Ghost! through whose merciful inspiration I am come hither, conduct me into everlasting life. Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit! Amen."

 

The death and martyrdom of John Laurence, priest

HE next day, being the twenty-ninth of this month, the said John Laurence was brought to Colchester, and there, being not able to go, (for that as well his legs were sore worn with heavy irons in prison, as also his body weakened with evil keeping,) was borne to the fire in a chair, and, so sitting, was in his constant faith consumed with fire.

            At the burning of this Laurence, he, sitting in the fire, the young children came about the fire, and cried, as well as young children could speak, saying, "Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise; Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise" which thing, as it is rare, so it is no small manifestation of the glory of God, who wrought this in the hearts of these little ones; nor yet a little commendation to their parents, who, from their youth, brought them up in the knowledge of God and his truth.

 

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