279. GEORGE MARSH
A declaration of the life, examination, and burning of George Marsh, who suffered most constant martyrdom for the profession of the gospel of Christ at Chester, the twenty fourth day of April, 1555.
The said George Marsh was born in the parish of Dean, in the county of Lancaster, and was well brought up in learning and honest trade of living by his parents; who afterwards, about the twenty-fifth year of his age, took to wife an honest maiden of the country, with whom he continued, earning their living upon a farm, having children between them lawfully begotten: and then, God taking his wife out of this world, he being most desirous of godly studies, (leaving his household and children in good order,) went unto the university of Cambridge, where he studied, and much increased in learning and godly virtues, and was a minister of God's holy word and sacraments, and for a while was curate to Laurence Saunders; as he himself reporteth, In which condition of life he continued for a space, earnestly setting forth God's true religion, to the defacing of antichrist's false doctrine, by his godly readings and sermons, as well there and in the parish of Dean, as elsewhere in Lancashire.
Whereupon at length, by detection of certain adversaries, he was apprehended, and kept in close prison by George Cotes, then bishop of Chester, in strait prison in Chester, within the precinct of the bishop's house, about the space of four months, being not permitted to have relief and comfort of his friends; but charge being given unto the porter, to mark who they were that asked for him, and to signify their names unto the bishop; as by the particular description of his story, testified and recorded with his own pen, more evidently may appear in the process hereunder following.
"On the Monday before Palm Sunday, which was the twelfth day of March, it was told me at my mother's house, that Roger Wrinstone. with other of Master Barton's servants, did make diligent search for me in Bolton; and when they perceived that I was not there, they gave strait charge to Roger Ward and Robert Marsh, to find and bring me to Master Barton the day next following, with others, to be brought before the honourable earl of Derby, to be examined in matters of religion, &c.
"I, knowing this, by relation of divers of my friends, was diversely affected: my mother and other my friends advertising me to fly, and to avoid the peril, which thing I had intended afore after a week then next ensuing, if this in the mean while had not chanced; seeing that if I were taken, and would not recant in matters of religion, (as they thought I would not, and as, God strengthening and assisting me with his Holy Spirit, I never will,) it would not only have put them to great sorrow, heaviness, and losses, with costs and charges, to their shame and rebuke in this world, but also mine own self, after troublous and painful imprisonment, unto shameful death.
"This considered, they advised me and counselled me to depart and fly the country, as I had intended to have done, if this had not happened: to whose counsel my weak flesh would gladly have consented, but my spirit did not fully agree; thinking and saying thus to myself, that if I fled so away, it would be thought, reported, and said, that I did not only fly the country, and my nearest and dearest friends, but much rather from Christ's holy word, according as these years past I had with my heart, or at least with mine outward living, professed, and with my mouth and word taught, according to the small talent given me of the Lord, I, being thus with their advice and counsel, and the cogitations and counsels of mine own mind, drawn as it were divers ways, went from my mother's house, saying I would come again at evening.
"In the mean time I ceased not, by earnest prayer, to ask and seek counsel of God, (who is the giver of all good gifts,) and of other my friends, whose godly judgments and knowledge I much trusted unto. After this, I met with one of my said friends on Dean Moor, about sun going-down: and after we had consulted together of my business, not without hearty prayer, kneeling on our knees, we departed, I not fully determining what to do, but taking my leave with my friend, said, I doubted not but God (according as our prayer and trust was) would give me such wisdom and counsel as should be most to his honour and glory, the profit of my neighbours and brethren in the world, and obtaining of mine eternal salvation by Christ in heaven.
"This done, I returned to my mother's house again, where had been divers of Master Barton's servants seeking after me; who, when they could not find me, straitly charged by brother and William Marsh to seek me that night, and to bring me to Smirhill the next day; who, being so charged, were gone to seek me in Adderton, or elsewhere I know not. Thus, intending afore to have been all night with my mother, but then considering that my tarrying there would disquiet her with her household, I departed from thence, and went beyond Dean Church, and there tarried all night with an old friend of mine, taking ill rest, and consulting much with myself of my trouble.
"So at my first awaking, one came to me from a faithful friend of mine with letters, which I never read nor yet looked on, who said this: my friend's advice was, that I should in no wise fly; but abide and boldly confess the faith of Jesus Christ, At whose words I was so confirmed and established in my conscience, that from thenceforth I consulted no more whether was better, to fly or to tarry; but was at a point with myself, that I would not fly, but go to Master Barton, who did seek for me, andthere present myself, and patiently bear such cross as it should please God to lay upon my shoulders, Whereupon my mind and conscience, afore being much unquieted and troubled, was now merry and in quiet estate.
"So betimes in the morning I arose, and after I had said the English Litany, (as my custom was,) with other prayers, kneeling on my knees by my friend's bed-side, I prepared myself to go toward Smirhill: and as I was going thitherward, I went into the houses of Harry Widdowes, of my mother-in-law, of Rafe Yeton, and of the wife of Thomas Richardson; desiring them to pray for me, and have me commended to all my friends, and to comfort my mother, and be good to my little children: for (as I supposed) they should not see my face any more before the last day: and so took my leave of them, not without tears shed on both parties, and came to Smirhill about nine of the clock, and presented myself afore Master Barton; who showed me a letter from the earl of Derby, wherein he was commanded to send me with others to Latham.
"Whereupon he charged my brother and William Marsh, to bring and deliver me the next day by ten of the clock, before the said earl or his council. I made earnest suit with other special friends which I had there at the same time, to Master Barton, that he would take some one of them, or them all, bound by recognisance or otherwise, for mine appearing before the said earl or his said council, that my brother and William Marsh might be at home, because it was the chiefest time of seeding, and their ploughs could not go if they were not at home: but nothing could be obtained.
"So we went to my mother's, and there I dined and shifted part of my clothes, and so, praying, took my leave of my mother, the wife of Richard Marsh, and both their households, they and I both weeping; and so departed from them, and went toward Latham, and were all night a mile and a half on this side Latham. So the next day, which was Wednesday, we arose, prayed, and came to Latham betimes, and tarried there till four of the clock at afternoon.
"Then was I called by Roger Mekinson to come to my Lord and his council, and so I was brought into the chamber of presence, where was present Sir William Norris, Sir Pierce Leigh, Master Sherburn the parson of Grappenhall, Master More, with others; where when I had tarried a little while, my Lord turned him toward me, and asked what was my name: I answered, 'Marsh.'
"Then he asked, whether I was one of those that sowed evil seed and dissension amongst the people: which thing I denied, desiring to know mine accusers, and what could be laid against me. But that I could not know.
"Then, said he, he would with his council examine me themselves, and asked me whether I was a priest; I said, 'No.' Then he asked me what had been my living, I answered I was a minister, served a cure, and taught a school. Then said my Lord to his council, 'This is a wonderful thing, Afore he said he was no priest, and now he confesseth himself to be one,' I answered, 'By the laws now used in this realm (as far as I do know) I am none.'
"Then they asked me who gave me orders, or whether I had taken any at all, I answered, I received orders of the bishops of London and Lincoln.
"Then said they one to another, 'Those be of the new heretics:' and asked me what acquaintance I had with them. I answered, I never saw them but at the time when I received orders.
"They asked me how long I had been curate, and whether I. had ministered with a good conscience, I answered, I had been curate but one year, and had ministered with a good conscience, I thanked God; and if the laws of the realm would have suffered me, I would have ministered still; and if the laws at any time hereafter would suffer me to minister after that sort, I would minister again. Whereat they murmured, and the parson of Grappenhall said, this last communion was the most devilish thing that ever was devised.
"Then they asked me what my belief was. I answered, I believed in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, according as the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments do teach, and according as the four symbols or creeds, that is to wit, the creed commonly called Apostolorum, the creed of Nice council, of Athanasius, and of Augustine and Ambrose, do teach, And after a few words, the parson of Grappenhall said, 'But what is thy belief in the sacrament of the altar?' I answered, I believed that whosoever, according to Christ's institution, did receive the holy sacrament of Christ's body and blood, did eat and drink Christ's body and blood, with all the benefits of his death and resurrection, to their eternal salvation; for Christ (said I) is ever present with his sacrament.
"Then asked they me, whether the bread and wine, by the virtue of the words pronounced of the priest, were changed into the flesh and blood of Christ, and that the sacrament, whether it were received or reserved, was the very body of Christ: whereunto I made answer, I knew no further than I had showed already; 'for my knowledge is unperfect,' said I: desiring them not to ask me such hard and unprofitable questions, whereby to bring my body into danger of death, and to suck my blood. Whereat they were not a little offended, saying they were no blood-suckers, and intended nothing to me but to make me a good Christian man.
"So, after many other questions, which I avoided as well as I could, remembering the saying of Paul, Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing they do but engender strife; my Lord commanded me to come to the board, and gave me pen and ink in my hand, and commanded me to write mine answers to the questions of the sacrament above named; and I wrote as I had answered before: whereat he, being much offended, commanded me to write a more direct answer, saying I should not choose but do it.
"Then I took the pen and wrote, that further I knew not: whereat he, being sore grieved, after many threatenings, said, I should be put to shameful death like a traitor, with such other like words; and sometimes giving me fair words, if I would turn and be conformable as others were, how glad he would be.
"In conclusion, after much ado, he commanded me to ward, in a cold, windy, stone house, where was little room; where I lay two nights without any bed, saving a few great canvass tent-clothes; and, that done, I had a pair of sheets, but no woollen clothes; and so continued till Palm Sunday, occupying myself as well as I could in meditation, prayer, and study: for no man could be suffered to come to me but my keeper twice a day, when he brought me meat and drink."
Another examination of George Marsh before the earl of Derby.
"On Palm Sunday, after dinner, I was sent for to my Lord and his council, (saving Sir William Norris and Sir Pierce Leigh were not then present in place,) amongst whom was Sir John Biron, and the vicar of Prescot. So they examined me yet once again of the sacrament. And after I had communed apart with the vicar of Prescot a good space concerning that matter, he returned to my Lord and his council with me, saying: that answer which I had made before, and then did make, (as it is above written,) was sufficient for a beginner, and as one which did not profess a perfect knowledge in that matter, until such time as I had learned further. Wherewith the earl was very well pleased, saying, he doubted not but by the means and help of the vicar of Prescot, I would be conformable in other things, So, after many fair words, he commanded I should have a bed, with fire, and liberty to go amongst his servants, so that I would do no harm with my communication amongst them.
"And so, after much other communication, I departed, much more troubled in my spirit than afore, because I had not with more boldness confessed Christ, but in such sort as mine adversaries thereby thought they should prevail against me; whereat I was much grieved: for hitherto I went about, as much as in me lay, to rid myself out of their hands, if by any means, without open denying of Christ and his word, that could be done.
"This considered, I cried more earnestly unto God by prayer, desiring him to strengthen me with his Holy Spirit, with boldness to confess him: and to deliver me from their enticing words, and that I were not spoiled through their philosophy and deceitful vanity after the traditions of men and ordinances of the world, and not after Christ.
"And so, after a day or two, I was sent for to the vicar of Prescot, and the parson of Grappenhall; where our most communication was concerning the mass: and he asked what offended me in the mass, I answered, the whole mass did offend me; first, because it was in a strange language, whereby the people were not edified, contrary to St, Paul's doctrine, 1 Cor. xiv., and because of the manifold and intolerable abuses and errors contained therein, contrary to Christ's priesthood and sacrifice.
"Then they asked me in what place thereof: and I named certain places; which places they went about with gentle and far-sought interpretations to mitigate, saying, those places were understood far otherwise than the words did purport, or than I did take them.
"I answered, I did understand them as they did purport, and as their own books do comment and gloss upon them.
"They said, sacrfcium or oblatio did not in the mass signify any thing else, than either a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, or else a memorial of a sacrifice or oblation. So they caused a mass-book to be sent for, and showed me where, in some places of the mass, was written, sacrificium laudis. Whereto I answered, that it followed not therefore that in all places it signified a sacrifice or oblation of praise or thanksgiving; and although it did, yet was not a sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving to be offered for the sins of the people; for that did Christ, by his own passion, once offer on the cross: whereas the words of the mass were, that the priest did offer an oblation and sacrifice for the sins and offences both of himself, and of the people; for them that were dead, and for the salvation of the living: and that the commixion of the body and blood of Christ, was health both of body and soul.
The vicar answered, that was to be understood of the commixion of Christ's body and blood with his church or people. So, after much exhortation unto me that I should be conformable to the true catholic church, (which, as they meant, was the Romish church,) I departed, not consenting unto them.
"So within a day or twain came to me Master More, bringing with him certain articles, whereunto Dr. Crome had consented and subscribed in the presence of certain witnesses in the days of King Henry the Eighth, and willed me read them over, and asked me whether I would consent and subscribe unto those articles: and after communication had of one or two of the said articles, I confessed plainly I would in no wise consent and subscribe to those articles: for then I did against mine own conscience: and so he departed.
"So within a short space after, which was on Shere-Thursday, the said parson and vicar sent for me again, saying, my Lord would be at a short point with me: for if I would not consent and subscribe unto four articles drawn out of the articles aforesaid, I must go to prison straightways.
"The first was, whether the mass now used in the church of England was according to Christ's institution, and, with faith, reverence, and devotion, to be heard and seen?
"The second, whether the Almighty, by the words pronounced by the priest, did change the bread and wine, after the words of consecration, into the body and blood of Christ, whether it were received or reserved?
"Thirdly, whether the lay people ought to receive but under the form of bread only, and that the one kind was sufficient for them?
"Fourthly, whether confession to the priest now used in England were godly and necessary?
"These four questions or articles they delivered me in writing, and bade me go to my chamber and subscribe my answers with mine own hand, and come again. So within one half hour I came to them again, and delivered them the questions with mine answers. The first I denied. The second I answered, as I did to my Lord afore, and as is above written. To the third I answered, that the lay people, by Christ's institution, ought to receive under both kinds, and that it sufficeth not them to receive under the one kind only. Fourthly, that though confession auricular were a commodious mean to instruct the rude people, yet it was not necessary nor commanded of God.
"They much exhorted me then to leave mine opinions, saying, I was much deceived, understanding the Scriptures amiss; and much counselled me to follow the catholic church of Christ, and to do as others did, I answered, my faith in Christ conceived by his holy word I neither could nor would deny, alter, or change, for any living creature, whatsoever he were; desiring them to speak to my Lord, that during my life and imprisonment my poor friends might be suffered to relieve me with necessary things according to their powers. And so, after much exhortation of them, to do and believe as the catholic church did, we departed; I from thenceforth continuing in the porter's ward, not coming forth of my chamber, saving at noon and night while I dined and supped.
"Upon one of the Easter holidays Master Sherburn and Master More sent for me, persuading me much to leave mine opinions; saying, all the bringers up and favourers of that religion had evil luck, and were either put to death or in prison, and in danger of life, Again, the favourers of the religion now used had wondrous good luck and prosperity in all things: with many other worldly reasons of man's wisdom; for as for the Scriptures, Master Sherburn confessed himself ignorant. I answered, that I believed and leaned only to the Scriptures, not judging things by prosperity or adversity: but they earnestly advised me to refuse mine opinions, and not to let for any worldly shame, I answered, that that which I did, I did not for the avoiding of any worldly shame, saying, My soul and life were dearer to me than the avoiding of any worldly shame: neither yet did I it for any vain praise of the world, but in the reverent fear of God.
"Then Master More questioned with me of receiving the sacrament under the one kind. I said, Christ's institution was plain, that all men should drink of the cup, Then he told me of Luke xxiv. and Acts xx., where was but mention of breaking of bread only: whereof he gathered, that they received the sacrament but under one kind. That I denied, saying, those places either did not speak of the celebration of the Lord's supper, or else under the name of breaking bread was signified and meant the receiving of the sacrament, both of the body and blood of Christ, according to his institution.
"So, after much communication of that matter, Master Sherburn said, it was great pity that I, being a well-favoured young man, and one that might have good living and do good, would so foolishly cast myself away, sticking so hard to such foolish opinions. I answered as afore I had done to my Lord and to his council, that my life, mother, children, brethren, sisters, and friends, with other delights of life, were as dear and sweet unto me as unto any other man, and that I would be as loth to lose them as another would, if I might hold them with good conscience, and without the ignominy of Christ; and seeing I could not do that, my trust was, that God would strengthen me with his Holy Spirit to lose them all for his sake: for I take myself (said I) for a sheep appointed to be slain, patiently to suffer what cross soever it shall please my merciful Father to lay on me, And so, after I had desired them that if I were committed to prison my friends might be suffered to relieve me, they departed.
"Master More, after this, brought unto me a book of one Alphonsus, a Spanish friar, of all heresies wherewith the Church of Rome, which he called Christ's true church, had been troubled since Christ's time; willing me to read and take counsel of that book: and appointed me a place, where this author did write against them that say, the lay people ought to receive under both kinds.
"This author I perceived did vehemently write against Luther, Melancthon, Pellican, and other Germans of this our time, in all points defending the blasphemous abuses and enormities of the Romish church, condemning as detestable heresies whatsoever was written, taught, or believed contrary to the same; using for his strongest and surest arguments, the consent, agreement, and determination of the Romish church. So, within a few days, Master More came to me again, asking me how I liked the book, I said the author of the book did in all points, being a papist, allow the rites and abuses of the Romish church: and showed him further, that this author, without authority, and contrary both to the Scriptures and old doctors, did condemn for heresy the lay people receiving of this sacrament under both kinds, whereas this author witnesseth his own self, that Christ's church, nine hundred years after Christ, used the contrary.
"So in conclusion he rebuked me, saying I was unlearned, and erred from the catholic faith; stubborn, and stood altogether in mine own conceit. I answered, for my learning, I knowledge myself to know nothing but Jesus Christ, even him that was crucified, and that my faith was grounded upon God's holy word only, and such as, I doubted not, pleased God, and as I would stand in until the last day, God assisting me; and that I did not say or do any thing either of stubbornness, self-wilfulness, vain-glory, or any other worldly purpose, but with good conscience, and in the fear of God: and desired him to speak to my Lord and his council, that I might find some gentleness and mercy at their hands. He made me but short answer. Then I said, I commit my cause unto God, who hath numbered the hairs of my head, and appointed the days of my life; saying, I am sure God, which is a righteous judge, would make inquisition for my blood, according as he hath promised. Then he took his book from me, and departed.
"I continued still in ward until Low Sunday, and after dinner my keeper, Richard Scot, came to me into my chamber, and told me that two young men were come to carry me to Lancaster; and so delivered me unto them, a great company, both of my Lord's servants and others, accompanying and bringing me on the way, unto Richard Adderton's, and somewhat further; counselling and persuading like as is aforesaid. To whom I made plain answer, that in matters of faith I would give place to no earthly creature. So they comforted me, and said that they were sorry for me, saying, If I knew mine own opinion to be good, I did well: and so they departed, willing my bringers to entreat me honestly.
"My bringers by the way showed me they were willed and advised to bind me, and that they desired first to see me: and after they had looked on me sitting at dinner, they answered they would take charge of me being loose, for they said I seemed to be an honest man.
"The first night we were all night at Broughton, and the second day we came to Lancaster betimes at afternoon, and so they kept me all night with them of their gentleness, and on the morrow delivered me to the jailer, who brought me into the highest prison, where I do remain."
After that, the said George came to Lancaster castle, and there being brought with other prisoners unto the sessions, was made to hold up his hands with the malefactors. The earl of Derby had this communication with him as here followeth:
"I said unto my Lord, I had not dwelled in the country these three or four years past, and came home but lately to visit my mother, children, and other my friends, and to have departed out of the country before Easter then next, and to have gone out of the realm. Wherefore I trusted, seeing nothing could be laid against me, wherein I had offended against the laws of this realm, his Lordship would not with captious questions examine me, to bring my body into danger of. death, to the great discomfort of my mother; but suffer me to avoid peaceably, seeing I might have fled out of the country, and yet of mine own will came to his Lordship.
"He said to his council, he had heard tell of me above at London; and intended to make search for me, and take me either in Lancashire or above at London; and asked me into what land I would have gone.
"I answered, I would have gone either into Almain, or else into Denmark. He said to his council -- in Denmark they used such heresy as they have done in England; but as for Almain, he said, the emperor had destroyed them.
"So, after such-like words I said unto him, my trust was, that his Lordship, being of the honourable council of the late King Edward, consenting and agreeing to acts concerning faith toward God and religion, under great pain, would not so soon after consent to put poor men to shameful death, as he had threatened me, for embracing the same with so good a conscience.
"He answered, that he, with the Lord Windsor and Lord Dacres, with one more, whose name I have forgotten, did not consent to those acts; and that the nay of them four would be to be seen, as long as the parliament-house stood. Then my Lord did rehearse the evil luck of the dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk, with others, because they favoured not the true religion; and again the good hap and prosperity of the queen's Highness, because she favoured the true religion: thereby gathering the one to be good, and of God, and the other to be wicked, and of the devil; and said, that the duke of Northumberland confessed so plainly."
George Marsh to the reader.
"Forasmuch as not only when I was at Latham, but also since I departed thence, I hear that there be divers and sundry reports and opinions of the cause of mine imprisonment, as well at Latham as at Lancaster, (as by credible persons I am informed,) some saying it was only because I would not do open penance; and some, because I could not agree with my Lord and his council concerning the sacrament of Christ's body and blood, and the manner of Christ's presence there; some, because I would not grant it sufficient, and according to Christ's institution, the lay people to receive the said sacrament under the one kind only: I thought it good, dearly beloved in Christ, and my bounden duty, to certify you by mine own hand-writing, of mine examination and handling at Latham, and to tell you the truth as near as I could, to quiet your mind in this behalf; and therefore I have here written with mine own hand the certainty of those things, as near as I could, here above expressed, not omitting any thing at all concerning religion, whereof they did examine me: howbeit I perceive in some things I keep not the same order in writing that thing which was asked by them, and answered by me afore and after, as it was in very deed in all points, saving this: telling the truth as near as I can, desiring you to accept in good worth this my good will, and to pray for me and all them that be in bonds, that God will assist us with his Holy Spirit; and that we may with boldness confess his holy name; and that Christ may be magnified in our bodies, that we may stand full and perfect in all the will of God; to whom be all honour and glory, world without end, Amen."
And thus you have heard all the whole trouble which George Marsh sustained both at Latham, and also at Lancaster, testified and written with his own hand, whereto he addeth moreover, and saith:
"While I was (saith he) in ward at Latham, divers at sundry times came unto me. Some said unto me that all my fellows had recanted, and were gone home, whereas indeed that was not so; for I saw divers of them divers times after. Others said, that it was reported amongst my Lord's household, that I had consented and agreed in all things with my Lord and his council.
"Furthermore, while I was at Lancaster, at this session, many came to me to talk with me: some of good will towards me, but without knowledge gave me such-like counsel as Peter gave Christ as he went up to Jerusalem, when he took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, Master, favour thyself; this thing shall not be unto thee. But I answered with Christ's sharp answer unto Peter again; who turned about and said unto Peter, Come after me, Satan; and, perceiving that they were a hinderance unto me, and that they savoured not the things which are of God, but the things that are of men, I made them plain answer; that I neither could, nor would, follow their counsel, but that by God's grace I would both live and die with a pure conscience, and according as hitherto I had believed and professed. For we ought in no wise to flatter and bear with them, though they love us never so well, which go about to pluck us away from the obedience that we owe unto God and to his word; but after Christ's example sharply to rebuke them for their counsel.
"Some others, yea, even strangers also, came to me far unlike to these, who, after sober communication had, consented with me in all things, lamenting much my troublous estate, giving me comfortable words and some money too; and resorted to me oftentimes, for the space of two, three, or four days, There came also many priests to me, by two, three, four, five, or six at once, whose mouths it was a thing easy enough to stop; for the priests (which is much to be lamented) be not always the greatest clerks, and best learned in the law of God, At their departing they either consented with me, or else had nothing to say against me, saying, theycould find no fault with my words. My communication with them was about the sacrament. There came also into the prison to me Master Westby, Master Ashton of Hill, Master Ashton of Chatterton, and many more, both gentlemen and others, to my great comfort; unto whom I had good occasion to utter a great part of my conscience; for God so strengthened me with his spirit of boldness, according to my humble request and prayer before, (everlasting thanks be given him therefor!) that I was nothing afraid to speak to any that came to me, no, not even to judges themselves, before whom I was thrice arraigned at the bar, amongst the thieves, with irons on my feet, and put up my hand as others did; but yet with boldness I spake unto them, so long as they would suffer me.
"They also sent for me the fourth time into their chamber, where, amongst other things, they laid it straitly to my charge, that I had reported, that I knew a whole mess of good gentlemen in Lancashire of mine opinion; and straitly charged me, upon pain of allegiance to the queen's Grace, to show who they were, But I denied that I had spoken any such thing (as it was, indeed, a false forged lie of some wicked wretches), After that, they threatened and rebuked me, for my preaching to the people out of the prison, as they called it, and for my praying and reading so loud that the people in the streets might hear. The truth is, I and my prison-fellow Warbarton, every day kneeling on our knees, did read morning and evening prayer, with the English Litany every day twice, both before noon and after, with other prayers more, and also read every day certain chapters of the Bible, commonly towards night: and we read all these things with so high and loud a voice, that the people without in the streets might hear us, and would oftentimes, namely, in the evenings, come and sit down in our sights under the windows, and hear us read; wherewith others being offended, complained."
All this while George Marsh was not yet brought before the bishop, whose name was Dr. Cotes, placed the same time in the bishopric of Chester, Of whose coming then into Lancaster, the said George Marsh reporteth himself as followeth:
"The bishop, being at Lancaster, there set up and confirmed all blasphemous idolatry; as holywater-casting, procession, gadding, mattins-mumbling, children-confirming, mass-hearing, idols-upsetting, with such heathenish rites forbidden by God; but no gospel-preaching, which Christ, God's Son, so earnestly commanded. He was informed of me, and willed to send for me and examine me; which thing he refused to do, saying he would have nothing to do with heretics so hastily: so hasty in judgment, and calling men heretics, are our bishops in their lordly dignities, afore they hear or see what is to he amended or condemned; contrary to the express commandment of God's word, which saith, Condemn no man, before thou hast tried out the truth of the matter; and when thou hast made inquisition, then reform righteously, Give no sentence before thou hast heard the cause, but first let men tell out their tale: and he that giveth sentence in a matter before he hear it, is a fool, and worthy to he confounded.
"And instead of his liberality towards me, poor prisoner, he sent for the jailer, and rebuked him because he suffered one to fare so well; willing to have me more strictly kept and dieted; but if his Lordship were tabled but one week with me, I do think he would judge our fare but slender enough.
"Also he, and his chaplains and chancellor, did find fault with the schoolmaster and others, for speaking to me, as to a most heinous heretic, and also with the jailer for suffering them. Such is the mercy that those religious fathers show to the friendless and comfortless in their adversities. If we may know the tree by the fruits, (as Christ saith,) no man can judge such for any other, but for very enemies to Christ and his true religion, God lay it never to their charges; but forgive them, and turn their hard hearts, if it be his will!
"But it is no new thing for the bishops to persecute the truth, and the prophets of the Lord for their constancy in preaching of the true faith; for so did their Pharisaical forefathers, if ye mark well the histories of the Holy Bible, Pashur was the head bishop of the temple, the ring-leader of false prophets, the chief heretic-taker; that is as much as to say, the out-thruster of true godliness. After that the dignity of priesthood was given unto him, he abused it; for he taught not, neither reproved by the word, but feared the godly with cruelty. He not only struck, but also imprisoned, the holy prophet Jeremy; though he withstood him not, but presently looked for the help of God, stedfastly preaching the truth of God.
"What mischief the ungracious Bishop Jason wrought among the Jews, destroying all godliness, and setting up abominable idolatrous laws, ye may read in 2 Mac, iv, How the execrable and blind bishops, Annas and Caiaphas, which never spake the truth of God themselves, unless it were against their wills, unwittingly, to their utter destruction -- how (I say) they pressed the truth in Christ and his apostles, is so well known that I need not to rehearse it."
And thus much hitherto concerning the prisonment of George Marsh, and his examinations before the earl of Derby and his deputies above named. Now, proceeding further in the troublesome persecution of this blessed man, let us likewise consider the latter part of his troubles and examinations which followed under the bishop of the same diocese, which was Dr. Cotes; the effect whereof, being drawn out of his own writing, here briefly is to be seen, as followeth.
Ye heard before, how George Marsh, being first imprisoned at Latham, and afterward translated unto Lancaster, was troubled by the earl. Again, within few days after, the said Marsh was removed from Lancaster; and coming to Chester, was sent for by Dr. Cotes, then bishop, to appear before him in his hall, nobody being present but they twain; and then he asked him certain questions concerning the sacrament: who made such answers as the bishop seemed therewith to be content, saving that he utterly denied transubstantiation, and allowed not the abuse of the mass, nor that the lay people should receive under one kind only, contrary to Christ's institution; in which points the bishop went about to persuade him: howbeit (God be thanked) all in vain, Much other talk he had with him, to move him to submit himself to the universal Church of Rome; and when he saw he could not prevail, he sent him to prison again. And after, being there, came to him divers times one Massie, a fatherly old man, one Wrench, the schoolmaster, one Hensham, the bishop's chaplain, and the archdeacon, with many more; who, with all probability of words and philosophy, or worldly wisdom and deceitful vanity, after the tradition of men, and the beggarly ordinances and laws of the world, but not after Christ, (as it were all singing one song,) went about to persuade him to submit himself to the Church of Rome, and to acknowledge the pope to be head thereof, and to interpret the Scriptures none otherwise than that church did; with many such-like arguments and persuasions of fleshly wisdom.
To whom the said George Marsh answered, that he did acknowledge and believe (though much evil be withal annexed) one holy catholic and apostolic church, without which there is no salvation, and that this church is but one; because it ever hath, doth, and shall, confess and believe one only God, and him only worship; and one only Messiah, and in him only trust for salvation: which church also is ruled and led by one Spirit, one word, and one faith; and that this church is universal and catholic, because it ever hath been since the world's beginning, is, and shall endure to the world's end, and comprehending within it all nations, kindreds, languages, degrees, states, and conditions of men; and that this church is builded only upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; and not upon the Romish laws and decrees, the bishop of Rome being the supreme head.
And whereas they said, the church did stand in ordinary succession of bishops, being ruled by general councils, holy fathers, and the laws of holy church, and so had continued by the space of fifteen hundred years and more; he made answer, that the holy church, which is the body of Christ, and therefore most worthy to be called holy, was before any succession of bishops, general councils, or Romish decrees; neither yet was bound to any time or place, ordinary succession, general councils, or traditions of fathers, neither had any supremacy over empires and kingdoms: but that it was a little poor silly flock, dispersed and scattered abroad, as sheep without a shepherd in the midst of wolves, or as a flock of orphans and fatherless children; and that this church was led and ruled by the only laws, counsels, and word of Christ, he being the supreme Head of this church, and assisting, succouring, and defending her from all assaults, errors, troubles, and persecutions, wherewith she is ever compassed about.
He showed and proved unto them also, by the flood of Noah, the destruction of Sodom, the Israelites departing out of Egypt; by the parables of the sower, of the king's son's marriage, of the great supper, and by other plain sentences of Scripture, that this church was of none estimation, and little in comparison of the church of hypocrites and wicked worldlings.
He was thrust at with all violence of craft and subtlety, but yet the Lord upheld him and delivered him. Everlasting thanks be to that merciful and faithful Lord, which suffereth us not to be tempted above our might, but in the midst of our troubles strengtheneth us with his most Holy Spirit of comfort and patience, giveth us a mouth and wisdom how and what to speak, where-against all his adversaries were not able to resist.
Illustration -- Chester cathedral
Another appearance of George Marsh before Dr, Cotes, bishop of Chester.
Now, after that the said bishop had taken his pleasure in punishing this his prisoner, and often reviling him, giving taunts and odious names of heretic, &c., he caused him to be brought forth into a chapel, in the cathedral church of Chester, called Our Lady Chapel, before him the said bishop, at two o'clock in the afternoon, who was there placed in a chair for that purpose, and Fulk Dutton, mayor of the said city, Dr. Wall, and other priests assisting him, placed not far from the said bishop, but somewhat lower; George Wensloe, chancellor, and one John Chetham, registrar, sat directly over against the said bishop.
Then they caused the said George Marsh to take an oath upon a book, to answer truly unto such articles as should be objected against him. Upon which oath taken, the chancellor laid unto his charge, that he had preached and openly published most heretically and blasphemously within the parish of Dean, Eccles, Bolton, Bury, and many other parishes within the bishop's diocese, in the months of January, February, or some other time of the year last preceding, directly against the pope's authority and catholic Church of Rome, the blessed mass, the sacrament of the altar, and many other articles. Unto all which in sum he answered, that he neither heretically nor blasphemously preached or spake against any of the said articles; but simply and truly, as occasion served, and (as it were thereunto forced in conscience) maintained the truth touching the same articles, "as," he said, "all you now present did acknowledge the same in the time of the late King Edward the Sixth."
Then they examined him severally of every article, and bade him answer directly, yea or nay, without circumstance; for they were come to examine, and not to dispute at that present.
Then he answered them unto every article very modestly, according to the doctrine by public authority received and taught in this realm at the death of the said King Edward: whose answers were every one noted and written by the registrar, to the uttermost that could make against him, which cannot at this present be gotten. After this, the company for that time brake up, and he was returned to his prison again.
The last and final appearance of George Marsh before the same.
Within three weeks after this, or thereabouts, in the said chapel, and in like sort as before, the said bishop and others before named there being assembled, the said George Marsh was brought by his keeper and others with bills and divers weapons before them; where, first, the said chancellor, by way of an oration, declared unto the people present the said bishop's charge and burning charity, who, even like as a good shepherd doth see to his flock, that none of his sheep have the scab or other disease for infecting other clean sheep, but will save and cure the said scabbed sheep; so his Lordship had sent for the said George Marsh there present, as a scabbed sheep, and had weeded him out for corrupting others, and had done what he could in showing his charitable disposition toward the said Marsh, to reduce him from his naughty heresies; but all that he could do would not help: so that he was now determined, if the said Marsh would not relent and abjure, to pronounce and give sentence definitive against him, Wherefore he bade the said George Marsh to be now well advised what he would do, for it stood upon his life: and if he would not at that present forsake his heretical opinions, it would be (after the sentence given) too late, though he would never so gladly desire it.
Then the said chancellor first asked him, whether he were not one of the bishop's diocese? To the which he answered, that he knew not how large his diocese was, for his continuance was at Cambridge, But then they replied and asked, whether he had not lately been at Dean parish in Lancashire, and there abode? And he answered, "Yea." Then the chancellor read all his former answers that he made in that place at his former examination: and at every one he asked him, whether be would stick to the same, or no? To the which he answered again, "Yea, yea."
"How say ye then to this?" quoth the chancellor,--"In your last examination, amongst many other damnable and schismatical heresies, you said, that the church and doctrine taught and set forth in King Edward's time, was the true church, and the doctrine, the doctrine of the true church: and that the Church of Rome is not the true and catholic church."
"I so said indeed," quoth Marsh, "and I believe it to be true." Here also others took occasion to ask him (for that he denied the bishop of Rome's authority in England) whether Linus, Anacletus, and Clement, that were bishops of Rome, were not good men, and he answered. Yes, and divers others; but," said he, "they claimed no more authority in England than the bishop of Canterbury doth at Rome; and I strive not," quoth he, "with the place, neither speak I against the person of the bishop, but against his doctrine; which in most points is repugnant to the doctrine of Christ."
"Thou art an arrogant fellow indeed then," said the bishop. "In what article is the doctrine of the Church of Rome repugnant to the doctrine of Christ?" To whom George Marsh answered and said, "O my Lord, I pray you judge not so of me: I stand now upon the point of my life and death; and a man in my case hath no cause to be arrogant, neither am I, God is my record. And as concerning the disagreement of the doctrine, among many other things the Church of Rome erreth in the sacrament. For whereas Christ, in the institution thereof, did as well deliver the cup as the bread, saying, Drink ye all of this; and Mark reporteth, that they did drink of it: in like manner St, Paul delivered it unto the Corinthians. And in the same sort also was it used in the primitive church by the space of many hundred years. Now the Church of Rome doth take away one part of the sacrament from the laity, Wherefore, if I could be persuaded in my conscience by God's word that it were well done, I could gladly yield in this point."
Then said the bishop, "There is no disputing with a heretic." And therefore when all his answers were read, he asked him whether he would stand to the same; "being as they were," said he, "full of heresy, or else forsake them, and come unto the catholic church."
To whom he made this full answer, and said, that he held no heretical opinion, but utterly abhorred all kind of heresy, although they most untruly so did slander him. And he desired all the people present to bear him witness, (if hereafter any would slander him, and say that he held any grievous heresy,) that in all articles of religion he held none other opinion than was by law most godly established and publicly taught in England at the death of King Edward the Sixth; and in the same pure religion and doctrine he would, by God's grace, stand, live, and die,-- And here the chancellor spake to one Leach, which stood near unto Marsh, and bade him stand farther from him; for his presence did him no good.
This being done, the bishop took a writing out of his bosom and began to read the sentence of condemnation: but when the bishop had read almost half thereof, the chancellor called him, and said, "Good my Lord, stay, stay; for if ye proceed any farther, it will be too late to call it again" and so the bishop stayed. Then his popish priests, and many other of the ignorant people, called upon Marsh, with many earnest words, to recant; and, amongst others, one Pulleyn, a shoe-maker, said to him, "For shame, man, remember thyself, and recant." They bade him kneel down and pray, and they would pray for him: so they kneeled down, and he desired them to pray for him, and he would pray for them.
The bishop then asked him again, whether he would not have the queen's mercy in time; and he answered, he did gladly desire the same, and did love her Grace as faithfully as any of them; but yet he durst not deny his Saviour Christ, for losing his mercy everlasting, and so win everlasting death.
Then the bishop put his spectacles again upon his nose, and read forward his sentence about five or six lines, and there again the chancellor with a glavering and smiling countenance called to the bishop, and said, "Yet, good my Lord, once again stay; for if that word be spoken, all is past, no relenting will then serve." And the bishop, pulling off his spectacles, said, "I would stay; and if it would be!"
"How sayest thou," quoth he, "wilt thou recant?" Many of the priests and ignorant people bade him do so, and call to God for grace; and pulled him by the sleeve, and bade him recant and save his life. To whom he answered, "I would as fain to live as you, if in so doing I should not deny my Master Christ; and so again he should deny me, before his Father in heaven."
So the bishop read out his sentence unto the end, and straight after said unto him, "Now will I no more pray for thee, than I will for a dog." And Marsh answered, that notwithstanding he would pray for his Lordship: and after this the bishop delivered him unto the sheriffs of the city. Then his late keeper bade him, "Farewell, good George," with weeping tears, which caused the, officers to carry him to a prison at the North-gate, where he was very straitly kept until the time he went to his death, during which time he had small comfort or relief of any worldly creature.
For being in the dungeon or dark prison, none that would him good could speak with him, or at least durst enterprize so to do for fear of accusation: and some of the citizens which loved him in God, for the gospel's sake, (whereof there were but a few,) although they were never acquainted with him, would sometimes in the evening, at a hole upon the wall of the city, (that went into the said dark prison,) call to him, and ask him how he did. He would answer them most cheerfully, that he did well; and thanked God most highly, that he would vouchsafe of his mercy to appoint him to be a witness of his truth, and to suffer for the same, wherein he did most rejoice; beseeching him that he would give him grace not to faint under the cross, but patiently bear the same to his glory, and comfort of his church: with many other like godly sayings at sundry times, as one that most desired to be with Christ, Once or twice he had money cast him in at the same hole, about ten pence at one time, and two shillings s at another time; for which he gave God thanks, and used the same to his necessity.
When the time and day appointed came that he should suffer, the sheriffs of the city, whose names were Amry and Cooper, with their officers and a great number of poor simple barbers with rusty bills and pole-axes, went to the North-gate, and there took out the said George Marsh, who came with them most humbly and meekly, with a lock upon his feet. And as he came upon the way towards the place of execution, some folks proffered him money, and looked that he should have gone with a little purse in his hand, (as the manner of felons was accustomed in that city in times past, at their going to execution,) to the end to gather money to give unto a priest to say trentals or masses for them after their death, whereby they might, as they thought, be saved: but Marsh said, he would not as then be troubled with meddling with money; but willed some good man to take the money, if the people were disposed to give any, and to give it unto the prisoners or poor people. So he went all the way unto his death with his book in his hand, looking upon the same; and many of the people said, "This man goeth not unto his death as a thief, or as one that deserveth to die."
Now when he came to the place of execution without the city, near unto Spittle-Boughton, one Vawdrey, being then deputy chamberlain of Chester, showed Marsh a writing under a great seal, saying, that it was a pardon for him if he would recant. Whereat Marsh answered, that he would gladly accept the same (and said further that he loved the queen); but, forasmuch as it tended to pluck him from God, he could not receive it upon that condition. After that, he began to speak to the people, showing the cause of his death, and would have exhorted them to stick unto Christ. Whereupon one of the sheriffs said, "George Marsh, we must have no sermoning now." To whom he said, "Master, I cry you mercy:" and so kneeling down made his prayers, and then put off his clothes unto his shirt, and then was he chained to the post, having a number of faggots under him, and a thing made like a firkin, with pitch and tar in the same, over his head; and by reason the fire was unskilfully made, and that the wind did drive the same to and fro, he suffered great extremity in his death, which notwithstanding he abode very patiently.
Illustration -- George March burnt at the stake.
Wherein this in him is to be noted, that when he had been a long time tormented in the fire without moving, having his flesh so broiled and puffed up, that they which stood before him underneath could see the chain wherewith he was fastened, and therefore supposed no less but he had been dead; notwithstanding suddenly he spread abroad his arms, saying, "Father of heaven, have mercy upon me!" and so yielded his spirit into the hands of the Lord.
Upon this many of the people said, that he was a martyr, and died marvellous patiently and godly: which thing caused the bishop shortly after to make a sermon in the cathedral church, and therein affirmed, that the said Marsh was a heretic, burnt like a heretic, and was a firebrand in hell.
In recompence of this his good and charitable sermon, within short time after, the just judgment of God appeared upon the said bishop, recompensing him in such wise, that not long after he turned up his heels and died, Upon what cause his death was gendered, I have not here precisely to pronounce, because the rumour and voice of the people is not always to be followed, Notwithstanding, such a report went in all men's mouths, that he died of a disgraceful disease. Whereupon, whether he died so or no, I am not certain, neither dare lean too much upon public speech: albeit this is certain, that when he was afterward searched, being dead, by some of his secret friends and certain aldermen for stopping the rumour of the people, this maidenly priest and bishop was found not to be free from certain appearance which declared but small virginity in him, and that the rumour was not raised up altogether upon nought amongst the people, But of this I will stay, and proceed no further; not because more cannot be said, but because I will not be so uncharitable in defacing these men, as they are cruel in condemning God's servants to death.
This good man, George Marsh, wrote divers and sundry letters out of prison, besides his examinations, as before ye have heard: touching the which his examinations, this letter first he sendeth to his friends, the copy whereof here followeth.
"Here have you, dearly beloved friends in Christ, the chief and principal articles of Christian doctrine briefly touched, which heretofore I have both believed, professed, and taught; and as yet do believe, profess, and teach; and am surely purposed, by God's grace, to continue in the same until the last day. I do want both time and opportunity to write out at large the probations, causes, parts, effects, and contraries or errors of these articles, which whoso desireth to know, let them read over the common-places of the godly learned men, Philip Melancthon and Erasmus Sarcerus, whose judgment in these matters of religion I do chiefly follow and lean unto. The Lord give us understanding in all things, and deliver us from this present evil world, according to his will and pleasure, and bring us again out of this hell of affliction, into which it hath pleased the merciful Lord to throw us down; and deliver us out of the mouth of the lion, and from all evil doing, and keep us unto his everlasting and heavenly kingdom. Amen.
"Though Satan be suffered as wheat to sift us for a time, yet faileth not our faith through Christ's aid, but that we are at all times able and ready to confirm the faith of our weak brethren, and always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us; and that with meekness and reverence, having a good conscience; that whereas they backbite us as evil doers, they may be ashamed, forasmuch as they have falsely accused our good conversation in Christ, I thought myself now of late years, for the cares of this life, well settled with my loving and faithful wife and children, and also well quieted in the peaceable possession of that pleasant Euphrates, I do confess it: but the Lord, who worketh all things for the best to them that love him, would not there leave me, but did take my dear and beloved wife from me; whose death was a painful cross to my flesh.
"Also I thought myself now of late well placed under my most loving and most gentle Master Laurence Saunders, in the cure of Langton, But the Lord of his great mercy would not suffer me long there to continue (although for the small time I was in his vineyard, I was not all an idle workman): but he hath provided me, I perceive it, to taste of a far other cup; for by violence hath he yet once again driven me out of that glorious Babylon, that I should not taste too much of her wanton pleasures, but with his most dearly beloved disciples to have my inward rejoicing in the cross of his Son Jesus Christ; the glory of whose church, I see it well, standeth not in the harmonious sound of bells and organs, nor yet in the glistering of mitres and copes, neither in the shining of gilt images and lights, (as the blind papists do judge it,) but in continual labours and daily afflictions for his name's sake.
"God, at this present here in England, hath his fan in his hand; and after his great harvest, where-into these years past he hath sent his labourers, is now sifting the corn from the chaff, and purging his floor, and ready to gather the wheat into his garner, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
"Take heed and beware of the leaven of the scribes and of the Sadducees: I mean the erroneous doctrine of the papists, which with their glosses deprave the Scriptures; for, as the apostle St, Peter doth teach us, there shall be false teachers amongst us, which privily shall bring in damnable sects: and saith, that many shall follow their damnable ways, by whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of, and that through covetousness they shall with feigned words make merchandise of us. And Christ earnestly warneth us to beware of false prophets, which come to us in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. The fruits of the prophets are their doctrine. In this place are all we Christians taught that we should try the preachers, and others that come under colour to set forth true religion unto us, according to the saying of St. Paul. Try all things, and choose that which is good. Also the evangelist St. John saith, Believe not every spirit; but prove the spirits, whether they be of God or not: for many false prophets, saith he, are gone out into the world. Therefore if thou wilt know the true prophets from the false, try their doctrine by the true touchstone, which is the word of God: and as the godly Bereans did, search ye the Scriptures, whether those things which be preached unto you, be even so or not; for else, by the outward conversation of them, ye may easily be deceived."
A letter exhortatory of George Marsh, to the faithful professors of Langton.
"Grace be unto you, and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
"I thought it my duty to write unto you, my beloved in the Lord at Langton, to stir up your minds, and to call to your remembrance the words which have been told you before, and to exhort you, (as that good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, Barnabas, did the Antiochians,) that with purpose of heart ye continually cleave unto the Lord; and that ye stand fast, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, whereof, God be thanked, ye have had plenteous preaching unto you by your late pastor Master Saunders, and other faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, which now, when persecution ariseth because of the word, do not fall away like shrinking children, and forsake the truth, being ashamed of the gospel whereof they have been preachers; but are willing and ready, for your sakes, which are Christ's mystical body, to forsake not only the chief and principal delights of this life (I do mean, their native countries, friends, livings, &c.); but also to fulfil their ministry to the utmost, that is to wit, with their painful imprisonments and blood-sheddings, if need shall require, to confirm and seal Christ's gospel, whereof they have been ministers; and, as St, Paul saith, they are ready not only to be cast into prison, but also to be killed for the name of the Lord Jesus.
"Whether of these -- being that good salt of the earth, that is, true ministers of God's word, by whose doctrine, being received through faith, men are made savoury unto God, and which themselves lose not their saltness, now when they be proved with the boisterous storms of adversity and persecution;-- or others, being that unsavoury salt which hath lost his saltness; that is to wit, those ungodly ministers, which do fall from the word of God into the dreams and traditions of antichrist: whether of these, I say, be more to be credited and believed, let all men judge.
"Wherefore, my dearly beloved, receive the word of God with meekness, that is grafted in you, which is able to save your souls: and see that ye be not forgetful hearers, deceiving yourselves with sophistry, but doers of the word; whom Christ doth liken to a wise man, which buildeth his house on a rock; that when the great rain descended, and the floods came and beat upon the house, it fell not, because it was grounded upon a rock: that is to wit, that when Satan, with all his legion of devils, with all their subtle suggestions, and the world with all the mighty princes thereof, with their crafty counsels, do furiously rage against us, we faint not, but abide constant in the truth; being grounded upon a most sure rock, which is Christ, and the doctrine of the gospel, against which the gates of hell (that is, the power of Satan) cannot prevail.
"And be ye followers of Christ and his apostles, and receive the word in much affliction, as the godly Thessalonians did: for the true followers of Christ and the apostles, be they which receive the word of God. They only receive the word of God, which both believe it, and also frame their lives after it, and be ready to suffer all manner of adversity for the name of the Lord: as Christ and all the apostles did, and as all that will live godly in Christ Jesu must do: for there is none other way into the kingdom of heaven, but through much tribulation. And if we suffer any thing for the kingdom of heaven's sake, and for righteousness' sake, we have the prophets, Christ, the apostles, and martyrs, for an ensample to comfort us: for they did all enter into the kingdom of heaven at the strait gate and narrow way that leadeth unto life, which few do find. And unless we will be content to deny our own selves, and take up the cross of Christ and follow him, we cannot be his disciples; for if we deny to suffer with Christ and his saints, it is an evident argument, that we shall never reign with him.
And again, if we can find in our hearts patiently to suffer persecutions and tribulations, it is a sure token of the righteous judgment of God, that we are counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which we also suffer. It is verily, saith the apostle, a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble us, and rest to us that be troubled: for after this life, the godly, being delivered from their tribulations and pains, shall have a most quiet and joyful rest; whereas the wicked and ungodly, contrariwise, shall be tormented for evermore with intolerable and unspeakable pains, as Christ, by the parable of the rich glutton and wretched Lazarus, doth plainly declare and teach. These ought we to have before our eyes always; that in the time of adversity and persecution (whereof all that will be the children of God shall be partakers, and wherewith it hath pleased God to put some of us in use already) we may stand stedfast in the Lord, and endure even unto the end, that we may be saved, For unless we, like good warriors of Jesus Christ, will endeavour ourselves to please him who hath chosen us to be soldiers, and fight the good fight of faith even unto the end, we shall not obtain that crown of righteousness, which the Lord, that is a righteous judge, shall give to all them that love his coming.
"Let us therefore receive with meekness the word that is graffed in us, which is able to save our souls, and ground ourselves on the sure rock Christ. For, as the apostle saith, other foundation can no man lay, besides that which is laid already, which is Jesus Christ. If any man build on this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, timber, hay, stubble, every man's work shall appear, for the day shall declare it, and it shall be showed in the fire. And the fire shall try every man's work what it is, If any man's work that he hath builded upon, abide, he shall receive a reward: if any man's work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he shall be safe himself, nevertheless yet as it were through fire.
"By fire here doth the apostle understand persecution and trouble; for they which do truly preach and profess the word of God, which is called the word of the cross, shall be railed upon and abhorred, hated, thrust out of company, persecuted and tried in the furnace of adversity, as gold and silver are tried in the fire. By gold, silver, and precious stones, he understandeth them that in the midst of persecution abide stedfast in the word. By timber, hay, and stubble, are meant such, as in time of persecution do fall away from the truth. And when Christ doth purge his floor with the wind of adversity, these scatter away from the face of the earth like light chaff, which shall be burned with unquenchable fire, If they then which do believe, do in time of persecution stand stedfastly in the truth, the builder (I do mean the preacher of the word) shall receive a reward, and the work shall be preserved and saved: but if so be that they go back and swerve when persecution ariseth, the builder shall suffer loss, that is to say, shall lose his labour and cost; but yet he shall be saved, if he, being tried in the fire of persecution, do abide fast in the faith.
"Wherefore, my beloved, give diligent heed, that ye as living stones be builded upon that sure rock, and be made a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable unto God by Jesus Christ. For we are the true temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in us, if so be that we continue in the doctrine of the gospel, We are also a holy and royal priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices and oblations; for the sacrifices of the New Testament are spiritual, and of three manners. The first is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; which St. Paul doth call the fruits of those lips which confess the name of God. The second is mercy towards our neighbours, as the prophet Hosea saith, I will have mercy and not sacrifice: read also Matthew xiv. The third is, when we make our body a quick sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God; that is, when we mortify and kill our fleshly concupiscences and carnal lusts, and so bring our flesh, through the help of the Spirit, under the obedience of God's holy law. This is a sacrifice to God most acceptable, which the apostle calleth Our reasonable serving of God. And let us be sure, that unless we do now at this present take better heed to ourselves, and use thankfully the grace of God offered to us by the gospel preached these years past, whereby we are induced and brought to the knowledge of the truth; unless. I say, we keep Christ and his holy word dwelling by faith in the house and temple of our hearts, the same thing that Christ threateneth unto the Jews, shall happen unto us; that is to wit, the unclean spirit of ignorance, superstition, idolatry, and infidelity or unbelief, the mother and head of all vices, which, by the grace of God, was cast out of us, bringing with him seven other spirits worse than himself, shall, to our utter destruction, return again unto us; and so shall we be in worse case than ever we were before. For if we, after we have escaped from the filthiness of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, be yet tangled therein again, and overcome. then is the latter end worse than the beginning; and it had been better for us not to have known the way of righteousness, than after we have known it, to turn from the holy commandment given to us, For it is then happened unto us according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his vomit again, and the sow that was washed, to wallowing in the mire. And thus to continue and persevere in infidelity, and to kick against the manifest and known truth, and so to die without repentance, and with a despair of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, is to sin against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. For it is not possible, saith St, Paul, that they which were once lighted, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the power of the world to come; if they fall away, should be renewed again by repentance; forasmuch as they have, as concerning themselves, crucified the Son of God again, making a mocking of him. St. Paul's meaning in this place is, that they that believe truly and unfeignedly God's word, do continue and abide stedfast in the known truth.
"If any therefore fall away from Christ and his word, it is a plain token that they were but dissembling hypocrites, for all their fair faces outwardly, and never believed truly; as Judas, Simon Magus, Demas, Hymeneus, Philetus, and others were, which all fell away from the known verity, and made a mock of Christ: which St. Paul doth call here, to crucify Christ anew, because that they, turning to their old vomit again, did most blasphemously tread the benefits of Christ's death and passion under their feet. They that are such, can in no wise be renewed by repentance, for their repentance is fleshly, as the repentance of Cain, Saul, and Judas was; which, being without godly comfort, breedeth desperation unto death. These are not of the number of the elect: and, as St. John doth say, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us unto the end. Also the apostle saith in another place, If we sin willingly, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a fearful looking for judgment and violent fire, which shall devour the adversaries.
"They sin willingly, which of a set malice and purpose do withhold the truth in unrighteousness and lying, kicking against the manifest and open known truth, which although they do perfectly know that in all the world there is none other sacrifice for sin, but only that omni-sufficient sacrifice of Christ's death; yet, notwithstanding, they will not commit themselves wholly unto it, but rather despise it, allowing other sacrifices for sin, invented by the imagination of man, (as we see by daily experience,) unto whom, if they abide still in their wickedness and sin, remaineth a most horrible and dreadful judgment. This is that sin unto death, for which St, John would not that a man should pray.
"Wherefore, my beloved in Christ, let us, on whom the ends of the world are come, take diligent heed unto ourselves, that now, in these last and perilous times, in the which the devil is come down, and hath great wrath because he knoweth his time is but short, and whereof the prophets, Christ, and the apostles have so much spoken, and given us so earnest forewarning, we withhold not the truth in unrighteousness, believing, doing, or speaking any thing against our knowledge and conscience, or without faith. For if we so do, for whatsoever cause it be, it is a wilful and obstinate infidelity, and a sin unto death: and as our Saviour Christ saith, If ye believe not, ye shall die in your own sins. For unless we hold fast the word of life, both believing it, and also bringing forth fruit worthy of repentance, we shall, with the unprofitable fig tree, which did but cumber the ground, be cut down, and our talent taken from us, and given unto another that shall put it to a better use: and we, through our own unthankfulness put from the mercy of God, shall never be able to pay our debts: that is to say, we shall altogether be lost and and undone. For the earth that drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them that dress it, receiveth blessing of God; but that ground that beareth thorns and briers, is reproved and is nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned.
"Nevertheless, dear friends, we trust to see better of you, and things which accompany salvation, and that ye, being the good ground, watered with the moistness of God's word, plenteously preached among you, will with a good heart hear the word of God and keep it, bringing forth fruit with patience. And be none of those forgetful and hypocritish hearers, which, although they hear the word, yet the devil cometh, and catcheth away that which was sown in their heart; either having no root in themselves, endure but a season, and as soon as tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by they are offended: or, with the cares of this world and deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and so are unfruitful. Read the parable of the sower, and among other things, note and mark, that the most part of the hearers of God's word are but hypocrites, and hear the word without any fruit or profit, yea, only to their greater condemnation; for only the fourth part of the seed doth bring forth fruit. Therefore let not us, that be ministers, or professors, and followers of God's word, be discouraged, though that very few do give credit, and follow the doctrine of the gospel, and be saved.
"Whosoever therefore hath ears to hear, let him hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath: that is to say, they that have a desire of righteousness, and of the truth, shall be more and more illuminated of God: on the contrary part, they that do not covet after righteousness and truth, are more hardened and blinded, though they seem unto themselves most wise. For God doth here follow an example of a loving father, which when he seeth that fatherly love and correction doth not help towards his children, useth another way. He ceaseth to be beneficial unto them, and to minister unto them fatherly correction: he giveth them over unto themselves, suffering them to live as they list themselves.
"But we trust to see better of you, my dearly beloved, that ye, like very Gadarenites, for fear to lose your worldly substance or other delights of this life, will not banish away Christ and his gospel from among you; but that ye, with all diligence of mind, will receive the word of God, taught you by such ministers as now, when persecution ariseth because of the word, are not ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus, but are content to suffer adversity with the gospel, and therein to suffer trouble as evil doers, even unto bonds. And if ye refuse thus to do, your own blood will be upon your own heads. And as ye have had plenteous preaching of the gospel, more than others have had,-- so ye shall be sure, if ye repent not and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, to be sorer plagued, and to receive greater vengeance at God's hand, than others; and the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and be given to another nation, which will bring forth the fruits thereof.
"Wherefore, my dearly beloved in Christ, take good heed to yourselves, and ponder well in your minds, how fearful and horrible a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God. And see that ye receive not the word of God in vain, but continually labour in faith, and declare your faith by your good works, which are infallible witnesses of the true justifying faith, which is never idle, but worketh by charity. And see that ye continually give yourselves unto all manner of good works; amongst the which the chiefest are, to be obedient to the magistrates, (since they are the ordinance of God, whether they be good or evil,) unless they command idolatry and ungodliness; that is to say, things contrary unto true religion: for, then ought we to say with Peter, We ought more to obey God than man. But in any wise we must beware of tumult, insurrection, rebellion, or resistance.
"The weapon of a Christian in this matter, ought to be the sword of the Spirit, which is God's word and prayer, coupled with humility and due submission, and with readiness of heart, rather to die than to do any ungodliness, Christ also doth teach us, that all power is of God, yea, even the power of the wicked, which God causeth oftentimes to reign for our sins and disobedience towards him and his word. Whosoever then doth resist any power, doth resist the ordinance of God, and so purchase to himself utter destruction and undoing.
"We must also, by all means, be promoters of unity, peace, and concord. We must honour and reverence princes, and all that be in authority; and pray for them, and be diligent to set forth their profit and commodity. Secondly, We must obey our parents, or them that be in their rooms; and be careful for our households, that they be provided for and fed, not only with bodily food, but much rather with spiritual food, which is the word of God. Thirdly, We must serve our neighbours by all means we can, remembering well the saying of Christ, Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye likewise unto them: for this is the law and the prophets, Fourthly, We must diligently exercise the necessary work of prayer for all estates; knowing that God therefore hath so much commanded it, and hath made so great promises unto it, and doth so well accept it. After these works, we must learn to know the cross, and what affection and mind we must bear towards our adversaries and enemies, whatsoever they be, to suffer all adversities and evils patiently, to pray for them that hurt, persecute, and trouble us: and by thus using ourselves, we shall obtain a hope and certainty of our vocation, that we be the elect children of God.
"And thus I commend you, brethren, unto God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build further, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified; beseeching you to help Master Saunders and me your late pastors, and all them that be in bonds for the gospel's sake, with your prayers to God for us, that we may be delivered from all them that believe not, and from unreasonable and froward men; and that this our imprisonment and affliction may be to the glory and profit of our Christian brethren in the world; and that Christ may be magnified in our bodies, whether it be by death or by life, Amen.
"Salute from me all the faithful brethren: and because I write not several letters to them, let them either read or hear these my letters. The grace of our Lord be with you all, Amen
"The twenty-eighth of June; by the unprofitable servant of Jesus Christ, and now also his prisoner.
Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Pray, pray, pray: never more need."
Another letter of the said George Marsh, to certain of his dearly beloved friends at Manchester in Lancashire.
"Grace be with you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
"After salutations in Christ to you, with thanks for your friendly remembrances of me, desiring and wishing unto you, not only in my letters, but also in my daily prayers, such consolation in spirit, and taste of heavenly treasures, that ye may thereby continually work in faith, labour in love, persevere in hope, and be patient in all your tribulations and persecutions, even unto the end and glorious coming of Christ: these shall be earnestly to exhort and beseech you in Christ, as ye have received the Lord Jesus, even so to walk, rooted in him, and not to be afraid of any terror of your adversaries, be they never so many and mighty, and you on the other side never so few and weak: for the battle is the Lord's. And as, in times past, God was with Abraham, Moses, Isaac, David, the Maccabees, and others, and fought for them, and delivered all their enemies into their hands, even so hath he promised to be with us also unto the world's end, and so to assist, strengthen, and help us, that no man shall be able to withstand us. For as I was with Moses, so will I be with thee, saith God, and will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and bold; neither fear nor dread: for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest. Now if God be on our side, who can be against us?
"In this our spiritual warfare is no man overcome, unless he traitorously leave and forsake his Captain, either cowardly cast away his weapons, or willingly yield himself to his enemies, either fearfully turn his back and fly. Be strong therefore in the Lord, dear brethren, and in the power of his might, and put on all the armour of God, that ye may be able to stand stedfast against the crafty assaults of the devil.
"Now what weapons ye must fight withal, learn of St. Paul; a champion both much exercised, and also most valiant and invincible. For we must think none other, but that the life of man is a perpetual warfare upon earth, as the examples of all godly men throughout all ages do declare. The valiant warrior St. Paul, being delivered from the hands of the ungodly, and that so many times, and also from so many extreme perils and dangers of death, as he his own self doth witness, is fain to commit himself in the end to the rough waters of the sea, where he was in great peril and jeopardy of his own life: yet was God always (to the great comfort of all that hear of it) most ready to comfort and succour him, and gloriously delivered him out of all his troubles, so that no man that invaded him could do him any harm; and in the end he was compelled to say, I have finished my course; the time of my departing is at hand; I long to be loosed, and to be with Christ, which is best of all, most heartily desiring death.
"These things he written for our learning and comfort, and be to us a sure obligation, that if we submit ourselves to God and his holy word, no man shall be able to hurt us; and that he will deliver us from all troubles, yea, from death also, until such time as we covet and desire to die. Let us therefore run with patience unto the battle that is set before us, and look unto Jesus, the Captain and finisher of our faith; and after his example, for the reward's sake that is set out unto us. patiently bear the cross and despise the shame. For all that will live godly in Christ Jesu, shall suffer persecution.
"Christ was no sooner baptized, and declared to the world to be the Son of God, but Satan was, by and by, ready to tempt him; which thing we must look for also: yea, the more we shall increase in faith and virtuous living, the more strongly will Satan assault us: whom we must learn, after the example of Christ, to fight against, and overcome with the holy and sacred Scriptures, the word of God, (which is our heavenly armour: and sword of the Spirit. And let the fasting of Christ, while he was tempted in the wilderness, be unto an example of sober living; not for the space of forty days, (as the papists do fondly fancy of their own brains,) but as long as we are in the wilderness of this wretched life, assaulted of Satan, who, like a roaring lion, walketh about, and ceaseth not, seeking our utter destruction.
"Neither can the servants of God at any time come and stand before God; that is, lead a godly life, and walk innocently before God, but Satan cometh also among them; that is, he daily accuseth, findeth fault, vexeth, persecuteth, and troubleth the godly: for it is the nature and property of the devil always to hurt and do mischief, unless he be forbidden of God: for unless God doth permit him, he can do nothing at all, not so much as enter into a filthy hog: but we are more of price than many hogs before God, if we cleave unto his Son by faith.
"Let us therefore, knowing Satan's deceits and rancour, walk the more warily, and take unto us the shield of faith, wherewith we may be able to quench and overcome all the fiery and deadly darts of the wicked, Let us take to us the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and learn to use the same according to the example of our grand Captain, Christ. Let us fast and pray continually. For this frantic kind of devils goeth not out otherwise, as Christ doth teach us, but by faithful prayer and fasting, which is true abstinence and soberness of living, if we use the same according to the doctrine of the gospel and word of God. Fasting is acceptable to God, if it be done without hypocrisy; that is to say, if we use it to this intent, that thereby this mortal body and disobedient carcass may be tamed and brought under the subjection of the Spirit; and again, if we fast to this intent, that we may spare wherewith to help and succour our poor needy brethren.
"This fast do the true Christians use all the days of their life, although among the common sort of people remaineth yet still that superstitious kind of fasting, which God so earnestly reproveth by his prophet Isaiah. For as for true chastening of the body, and abstaining from vice, with showing mercy towards our needy neighbours, we will neither understand nor hear of it, but still think, with the Jews, that we do God a great pleasure when we fast; and that we then fast when we abstain from one thing, and fill our bellies with another. And verily in this point doth our superstition much exceed the superstition of the Jews; for we never read that they ever took it for a fast, to abstain from flesh, and to eat either fish or white-meat, as they call it.
"To fasting and prayer must be joined alms, and mercy towards the poor and needy: and that our alms may be acceptable unto God, three things are chiefly required, First, that we give with a cheerful and joyful heart; for the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, Secondly, that we give liberally, putting aside all niggardship, knowing that he that soweth little shall reap little, and he that soweth plenteously shall reap plenteously. Let every man therefore do according as he is able. The poorest caitiff in the world may give as great and acceptable an alms in the sight of God, as the richest man in the world can do. The poor widow that did offer but two mites, which make a farthing, did highly please Christ; insomuch that he affirmed with an oath, that she, of her penury, had added more to the offerings of God, than all the rich men, which of their superfluity had cast in very much. For if there be first a willing mind, as St. Paul saith, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that a man hath not. Thirdly, we must give without hypocrisy and ostentation; not seeking the praise of men, or our own glory or profit. And although the Scriptures in some places make mention of a reward to our alms and other good works, yet ought we not to think that we do merit or deserve any thing; but rather we ought to acknowledge, that God in his mere mercy rewarded thus in his own gifts. For what hath he that giveth alms, that he hath not received? He then that giveth up to a poor man any manner of thing, giveth not of his own, but of those goods which he hath received of God. What hast thou, saith the apostle, that thou hast not received? If thou hast received it, why rejoicest thou, as though thou hadst not received it?
"This sentence ought to be had in remembrance of all men, For if we have nothing, but that which we have received, what can we deserve, or what need we to dispute and reason of our own merits? It cometh of the free gift of God, that we live, that we love God, that we walk in his fear: where is our deserving then? We must also in this our spiritual warfare arm ourselves with continual prayer, a very necessary, strong, and invincible weapon, and, after the example of Christ and all other godly men, cry heartily unto God in faith, in all our distresses and anguishes, Let us go boldly to the seat of grace, where we shall be sure to receive mercy, and find grace to help in time of need: for now is pride and persecution increased; now is the time of destruction and wrathful displeasure.
"Wherefore, my dear brethren, be ye fervent in the law of God, and jeopard ye your lives, if need shall so require, for the testament of the fathers, and so shall ye receive great honour, and an everlasting name. Remember Abraham. Was not he found faithful in temptation, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness? Joseph, in time of his trouble, kept the commandment, and was made a lord of Egypt, Phineas was so fervent for the honour of God, that he obtained the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Joshua, for the fulfilling of the word of God, was made the captain of Israel. Caleb bare record before the congregation, and received a heritage. David also, in his merciful kindness, obtained the throne of an everlasting kingdom. Elias, being zealous and fervent in the law, was taken up into heaven. Ananias, Azarias, and Misael remained stedfast in the faith, and were delivered out of the fire. In like manner Daniel, being unguilty, was saved from the mouth of the lions.
"And thus ye may consider throughout all ages, since the world began, that whosoever put their trust in God were not overcome, Fear not ye then the words of ungodly men; for their glory is but dung and worms: to-day are they set up, and tomorrow they are gone; for they are turned into earth, and their memorial cometh to nought. Wherefore let us take good hearts unto us, and quit ourselves like men in the law: for if we do the things that are commanded us in the law of the Lord our God, we shall obtain great honour therein.
"Beloved in Christ, let us not faint because of affliction, wherewith God trieth all them that are sealed unto life everlasting; for the only way into the kingdom of God is through much tribulation. For the kingdom of heaven (as God teacheth by his prophet Esdras) is like a city builded and set upon a broad field, and full of all good things; but the entrance is narrow and sudden (full of sorrow and travail, perils and labours): like as if there were a fire at the right hand, and a deep water at the left; and as it were one straight path between them both, so small, that there could but one man go there. If this city now were given to an heir, and he never went through the perilous way, how could he receive his inheritance? Wherefore, seeing we are in this narrow and straight way, which leadeth unto the most joyful and pleasant city of everlasting life, let us not stagger, neither turn back, being afraid of the dangerous and perilous way, but follow our Captain, Jesus Christ, in the narrow and straight way; and be afraid of nothing, no, not even of death itself: for it is he that must lead us to our journey's end, and open us the door unto everlasting life.
"Consider also the course of this world, how many there be, which, for their master's sake, or for a little promotion's sake, would adventure their lives in worldly affairs, as, commonly, in wars; and yet is their reward but light and transitory, and ours is unspeakable, great, and everlasting. They suffer pains to be made lords on earth for a short season: how much more ought we to endure like pains, yea, peradventure, much less, to be made kings in heaven for evermore! Consider also the wicked of this world, which, for a little pleasure's sake, or to be avenged on their enemies, will fight with sword and weapons, and put themselves in danger of imprisonment and hanging, So much as virtue is better than vice, and God mightier than the devil, so much ought we to excel them in this our spiritual battle.
"And seeing, brethren, it hath pleased God to set me, and that most worthy minister of Christ, John Bradford, your countryman, in the fore-front of this battle, where, for the time, is most danger, I beseech you all, in the bowels of Christ, to help us, and all other our fellow soldiers standing in like perilous place, with your prayers to God for us, that we may quit ourselves like men in the Lord, and give some example of boldness and constancy mingled with patience in the fear of God; that we and others our brethren, through our example, may be so encouraged and strengthened to follow us, that ye also may leave example to your weak brethren in the world to follow you. Amen.
"Consider what I say; the Lord give us understanding in all things! Brethren, the time is short. It remaineth that ye use this world as though ye used it not; for the fashion of this world vanisheth away. See that ye love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, but set your affection on heavenly things, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Be meek and long-suffering; serve and edify one another with the gift that God hath given you. Beware of strange doctrine; lay aside the old conversation of greedy lusts, and walk in a new life. Beware of all uncleanness, covetousness, foolish talking, false doctrine, and drunkenness: rejoice and be thankful towards God, and submit yourselves one to another. Cease from sin; spend no more time in vice; be sober and apt to pray; be patient in trouble; love each other: and let the glory of God and profit of your neighbour be the only mark ye shoot at in all your doings. Repent ye of the life that is past, and take better heed to your doings hereafter. And, above all things, cleave ye fast to him, who was delivered to death for our sins, and rose again for our justification: to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be a:1 honour and rule for evermore, Amen.
"Salute from me in Christ all others which love us in the faith, and at your discretion make them partakers of these letters: and pray ye all for me and others in bonds for the gospel, that the same God, which by his grace hath called us from wicked papistry unto true Christianity, and now of love proveth our patience by persecution, will, of his mercy and favour, in the end gloriously deriver us, either by death, or by life, to his glory. Amen.
"At Lancaster, the thirtieth of August, 1555:
by me an unprofitable servant of Christ.
A letter of George Marsh to Jenkin Crampton and others.
"To his well-beloved in Christ, Jenkin Crampton, James Leiver, Elice Fogge, Ralph Bradshaw, the wife of Richard Bradshaw, Elice Crampton, and to every one of them, be these delivered from Lancaster, George Marsh.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
"After salutations in Christ, and hearty thanks for your friendly tokens, and your other remembrances towards me, beseeching God that ye may increase in faith, fear, and love, and all good gifts, and grow up into a perfect man in Christ: these be earnestly to exhort you, yea, and to beseech you in the tender mercy of Christ, that with purpose of heart ye continually cleave unto the Lord, and that ye worship and serve him in spirit, in the gospel of his Son. For God will not be worshipped after the commandments and traditions of men, neither yet by any other means appointed, prescribed, and taught us, but by his holy word. And though all men, for the most part, defile themselves with the wicked traditions of men, and ordinances after the world, and not after Christ; yet do ye, after the ensample of Toby, Daniel and his three companions, Mattathias and his five sons, be at a point with yourselves, that ye will not be defiled with the unclean meats of the heathen; I do mean the filthiness of idolatry, and the very heathenish ceremonies of the papists: but as the true worshippers, serve ye God in spirit and verity, according to his sacred Scriptures, which I would wish and will you above all things continually and reverently (as both St. Paul and Christ command you) to search and read, with the wholesome monitions of the same; to teach, exhort, comfort, and edify one another, and your brethren and neighbours, now in the time of this our miserable captivity, and great famishment of souls, for want of the food of God's word. And doubt not but that the merciful Lord (who hath promised to be with us even unto the world's end, and that whensoever two or three be gathered together in his name he will be in the midst of them) will assist you, and teach you the right meanings of the sacred Scriptures, will keep you from all errors, and lead you into all truth, as he hath faithfully promised.
"And though ye think yourselves unable to teach, yet, at the commandment of Christ, now in time of famine, (the hungry people, being in the wilderness far from any towns, who if they he sent away fasting, are sure to faint and perish by the way,) employ and bestow those five loaves and two fishes that ye have, upon that hungry multitude, although ye think it nothing among so many. And he that increased the five loaves and two fishes to feed five thousand men, besides women and children, shall also augment his gifts in you, not only to the edifying and winning of others in Christ, but also to an exceeding great increase of your knowledge in God and his holy word. And fear not your adversaries, for either according to his accustomed manner God shall blind their eyes that they shall not spy you, either get you favour in their sight, or else graciously deliver you out of their hands by one means or other.
"Obey with reverence all your superiors, unless they command idolatry or ungodliness. Make provision for your households; chiefly that they be instructed and taught in the law of God. Love your wives even as your own selves, and as Christ loved the congregation. Love your children; but rate them not, lest they be of a desperate mind: and bring them up in the nurture and information of the Lord, and teach them even as the godly parents of Toby the younger and Susanna did teach their children, even from their infancy, to reverence God according to his law, and to abstain from sin; providing that in no wise they he brought up in idleness and wantonness, seeing that ye reckon yourselves to be the children of God, and look for the life which God shall give to them that never turn their belief from him. See that ye ever fear God, and keep his commandments: and though the plague of God chance unto you, yet remain ye stedfast in the faith and fear of God, and thank him, and serve him in such holiness and righteousness as are acceptable before him, all the days of your life. Comfort yourselves in all your adversities, and stay yourselves in him, who hath promised not to leave you as fatherless and motherless children without any comfort, but that he will come to you like a most gentle and merciful Lord. He will continually stand by you in all your troubles, assisting, helping, and succouring you at all times. I will be with you, saith he, unto the end of the world. And cleave you fast unto him which was incarnate, lived, wrought, taught, and died for your sins, yea, rose again from death, and ascended into heaven for your justification. Repent ye of the life that is past, and cease from sin, and from henceforward live as much time as remaineth in the flesh, riot after the lusts of men, but after the will of God. To do good and distribute, forget not. Fast and pray busily; and as every man hath received the gift, minister the same one to another as good ministers of the manifold graces of God, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ; to whom be praise and dominion for ever, and while the world standeth. Amen.
Another letter of George .Marsh to certain faithful brethren in the congregation.
"The same grace and peace, dearly beloved in Christ, do I entirely desire and wish unto you, which the apostle St. Paul wisheth to all them, unto whom he did write and send his epistles; than which two things no better can be wished and desired of God. Grace is, throughout all the epistles of Paul, taken for the free mercy and favour of God, whereby he saveth us freely without any deservings or works of the law. In like manner peace is taken for the quietness and tranquillity of the conscience, being thoroughly persuaded that through the only merits of Christ's death and blood-shedding, there is an atonement and peace made between God and us, so that God will no more impute our sins unto us, nor yet condemn us.
"Dearly beloved, I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of things, though that you know them yourselves, and be also established in the present truth; notwithstanding, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. Wherefore I beseech you, brethren, and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that ye increase more and more, even as ye have received how ye ought to walk and to please God. And as Barnabas, that good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, exhorted the Antiochians, with purpose of heart cleave ye continually unto the Lord. And stand fast, and be not moved from the hope of the gospel, whereof (God be thanked) ye have had plenteous preaching unto you these years past, by the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ, Leiver, Pilkington, Bradford, Saunders, and others like, which now, when persecution ariseth, because of the word, do not fall away like shrinking children, and forsake the truth, but are prest and ready for your sakes, which are his mystical body, to forsake the chief and principal delights of this life; and some of them, in giving place to the outrageous tyranny of the world, to forsake their livings, friends, native land, and other chief pleasures of this life, and to commit themselves to painful exile, that, if it please God, Christ may come again out of Egypt. And others are ready to fulfil their ministry unto the uttermost: that is to wit, with their painful imprisonments and blood-shedding, if need shall so require, to confirm and seal Christ's gospel, whereof they have been ministers; and, as St. Paul saith, not only to be cast into prison, but also to die, for the name of the Lord Jesus.
"Be ye not therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus, neither be ye ashamed of us which are his prisoners, but suffer ye adversity with the gospel, for which word we suffer as evil-doers, even unto bonds: but the word of God is not bound with us. Therefore we suffer all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesu with eternal glory. Wherefore stand ye fast in the faith, and be not moved from the hope of the gospel, and so shall ye make us, even with joy, to suffer for your sakes, and, as the apostle saith, to fulfil that which is behind of the passion of Christ in our flesh, for his body's sake, which is the congregation. St. Paul doth not here mean, that there wanteth any thing in the passion of Christ, which may be supplied by man: for the passion of Christ, as touching his own person, is that most perfect and omni-sufficient sacrifice, whereby we are all made perfect, as many as are sanctified in his blood; but these his words ought to be understood of the elect and chosen, in whom Christ is, and shall he persecuted, unto the world's end. The passion of Christ then, as touching his mystical body, which is the church, shall not be perfected till they have all suffered, whom God hath appointed to suffer for his Son's sake. Wherefore stablish yourselves. and be of good comfort; and be not moved in these afflictions, knowing that we are appointed thereunto. For, on our parts, nothing can be greater consolation and inward joy unto us in our adversity, than to hear of your faith and love, and that ye have a good remembrance of us always, praying for us as we do for you, as the apostle writeth of the Thessalonians, saying, Now are we alive, if ye stand stedfast in the Lord. For good shepherds do always count the welfare and prosperous estate of Christ's flock to be their own; for, while it goeth well with the congregation, it goeth well with them also in whatsoever affliction or adversity they be: but when they see the church in any peril or weakness, then be they weary of their own lives; then can they have no rest nor joy. Who is weak, saith St. Paul, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I do not burn? But this affection is not in them that seek their own lucre and glory.
"And, forasmuch as the life of man is a perpetual warfare upon earth, let us run with joy unto the battle that is set before us, and, like good warriors of Jesus Christ, please him who hath chosen us to be soldiers; and not, like shrinking children, faint and fall away from the truth now, in time of adversity and tribulation, wherewith all that will live godly in Christ Jesus must be tried, even as gold and silver is proved in the fire, and whereof all the Scriptures have given us so much forewarning. For God is wont, for the most part, to warn his elect and chosen, what affliction and trouble shall happen unto them for his sake; not to the intent to fray them thereby, but rather to prepare their minds against the boisterous storms of persecution -- as we have a notable example in the apostle St. Paul, unto whom God sent Agabus, who prophesied unto him of the imprisonment and bands that he should suffer at Jerusalem: in whom we have also a good example of constancy and stedfastness, who, regarding nothing the tears of his familiar friends, nor yet the peril of his own life, did through fire and water go on still to set forth the glory of God; and he, being delivered from the hands of his ungodly and bloodthirsty enemies, and that so many times, is in conclusion fain to commit himself to the rough waters of the sea, where he was a long season in great peril and jeopardy of his own life. But God was always (to the great comfort of all that shall hear of it) most ready to help and succour him. First, he did send him a most friendly and sweet company, I mean Aristarchus and Lucas, so ruling the heart of the under-captain Julius, that he courteously entreated him, and gave him liberty to go to his friends, and to refresh himself; and he was beneficial unto him at all times. In like manner was God with Joseph, and delivered him from all his adversities, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh king of Egypt, insomuch that he made him governor over all Egypt, and over all his household. In like manner was he with Jeremy and Daniel, in their great troubles, and appointed men for them in their most troubles, to relieve, succour, and help them; to their singular comfort. Also when Peter was in Herod's prison, sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and the keepers before the door keeping the prison, the same night that Herod had intended to have brought him out unto the people the day following, and to have put him unto death to please the Jews withal, as a little before he had killed James the brother of John with the sword; God sent his angel, and the chains fell off from Peter's hands, and the iron gate opened unto him by its own accord; and so was Peter wonderfully delivered by God. For it is the true living God that looseth all bands, and delivereth out of prison, and not that feigned God, St. Leonard. On that true God did St. Peter call; unto him did he ascribe the glory of his deliverance, saying, Now I know of a truth, that God hath sent his angel, &c.
"These things are written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. The God of patience and comfort grant that we be like-minded one towards another, after the ensample of Christ Jesus; that we, all agreeing together, may with one mouth glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"A poor prisoner for Christ.
Another letter of George Marsh to Robert Langley and others.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you, good brother in Christ, Robert Langley, and with all them that love the Lord Jesus unfeignedly; Amen.
"After hearty commendations to you, with thanks for that ye did visit me a prisoner in Christ, and unacquainted with you, to your costs; this shall be to let you know, that ye shall receive from me mine examination and handling at Latham the cause of mine imprisonment, according as I promise you: and this ye shall receive by brother, or some one of the Bradshaws of Bolton, within this sevennight; willing you to show the same to such faithful men about Manchester or elsewhere, as you do take to be favourers of true religion and Christ's holy word, and then to deliver it again. And whereas you did put me in comfort, that if I did want any thing necessary unto this life, you with some others would he bearers with me in this my costly and painful affliction; I give you most hearty thanks, and rejoice greatly in the Lord, who stirs up the hearts of others to be careful for me in this my great necessity. I thank God, as yet I do want nothing, and intend to be as little chargeable to others (saving my mother) as I can. If I do want, I will be bold with you and others, to send for your relief and help in my necessity; desiring you in the mean while to pray for me, and all others in the bonds of Christ, that God would perform the thing which he hath begun in us, that we may with boldness confess Jesus Christ, and fight the good fight of faith.
A letter of George Marsh to a certain godly friend.
"Grace be with you, and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God, and Jesus the Lord.
"After hearty commendations and thanks to you, not only for your large token, but much more for your loving letters, full of consolation to me as touching my person to you unknown; these shall be to certify you, that I rejoice greatly in the Lord, when I do perceive how my sweet Saviour Christ doth stir up the minds, not only of my familiar friends in times past, but also of sundry and divers heretofore unto me unknown and unacquainted, to bear part with me in this my painful and costly imprisonment, sending me things not only necessary for this present life, but also comfortable letters; encouraging and exhorting me to continue grounded and stablished in the faith, and not to be moved away from the hope of the gospel, whereof, according to my small talent, I have been a minister: and daily I call and cry unto the Lord, in whom is my trust, and without whom I can do nothing. he which hath begun a good work in me, would vouchsafe to go forth with it until the day of Jesus Christ; being surely certified in my conscience of this, that he will so do, forasmuch as he hath given me, that not only I should believe on him, but also suffer for his sake. The Lord strengthen me with his Holy Spirit, that I may be one of the number of those blessed, which, enduring to the end, shall be saved!
"And whereas you say, that my suffering of persecution with Christ is a thing to you most comfortable, I make answer, that in all mine adversity and necessity nothing on your behalf is greater consolation unto me, than to hear of the faith and love of others, and how they have good remembrance of us always, even as the apostle reporteth by the Thessalonians, saying, Now are we alive, if ye stand stedfast in the Lord. For my trust in the Lord is, that this my business shall happen to the furtherance of the gospel, and that you will be none of those forgetful and hypocritish hearers, whereof some being but wayside hearers, the devil cometh and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved, (but let prayer be made without ceasing by the congregation unto God for them,) and, no doubt, God will to your consolation gloriously deliver, by one means or other, his oppressed. Only tarry ye the Lord's leisure; be strong; let your heart be of good comfort; and wait ye still for the Lord. He tarrieth not that will come: look for him therefore, and faint not, and he will never fail you.
A prayer of George Marsh, which he used daily to say.
"O Lord Jesus Christ, which art the only physician of wounded consciences, we miserable sinners, trusting in thy gracious goodness, do briefly open unto thee the evil tree of our heart, with all the roots, boughs, leaves, and fruits, and with all the crooks, knots, and knoures, all which thou knowest: for thou thoroughly perceivest as well the inward lusts, doubtings, and denying thy providence, as those gross outward sins which we commit inwardly and deadly. Wherefore we beseech thee, according to the little measure of our infirmity, although we be far unable and unapt to pray, that thou wouldest mercifully circumcise our stony hearts; and for these old hearts create new within us, and replenish us with a new spirit, and water us, and moisten us with the juice of heavenly grace, and wells of spiritual waters, whereby the inward venom and noisome juice of the flesh may be dried up, and custom of the old man changed; and our heart, always bringing forth thorns and briers to be burned with fire, from henceforth may bear spiritual fruits in righteousness and holiness, unto life everlasting: Amen.
"Beloved, among other exercises, I do daily on my knees use this confession of sins, willing and exhorting you to do the same, and daily to acknowledge unfeignedly to God your unbelief, unthankfulness, and disobedience against him. This shall ye do, if ye will diligently consider and look yourselves, first, in the pure glass of God's commandments, and there see your outward filthiness and uncleanness, and so learn to vanquish the same; that is to wit, fall in hearty displeasure against sin, and thereby be provoked to long after Christ; for we truly are sinners, but he is just. and the justifier of all them that believe on him. We are poor, but he is rich in mercy toward all them that call upon him. If we hunger and thirst for righteousness, let us resort unto his table, for he is a most liberal feast-maker. He will set before us his own holy body, which is given to us to he our meat, and his precious blood, which was shed for us and for many, for the remission of sins, to be our drink. He biddeth, willeth, and calleth for guests, which hunger and thirst. Come, saith he, all ye that labour and are laden, and I will refresh you, cool and ease you, and you shall find rest unto your souls"