294. THE EXECUTION OF LEAF AND BRADFORD.
Illustration -- The execution of Bradford and Leaf
The behaviour of Master Bradford, preacher, and of the young man that suffered with him in Smithfield, named John Leaf, a prentice, who both suffered for the testimony of Christ.
First, when they came to the stake in Smithfield to be burned, Master Bradford, lying prostrate on the one side of the stake, and the young man John Leaf on the other side, they lay flat on their faces, praying to themselves the space of a minute of an hour. Then one of the sheriffs said to Master Bradford, "Arise, and make an end; for the press of the people is great."
At that word they both stood up upon their feet, and then Master Bradford took a faggot in his hand, and kissed it, and so likewise the stake. And when he had so done, he desired of the sheriffs that his servant might have his raiment; "for," said he, "I have nothing else to give him: and besides that, he is a poor man." And the sheriff said he should have it. And so forthwith Master Bradford did put off his raiment, and went to the stake: and, holding up his hands, and casting his countenance up to heaven, he said thus, "O England, England, repent thee of thy sins, repent thee of thy sins. Beware of idolatry, beware of false antichrists; take heed they do not deceive you." And as he was speaking these words, the sheriff bade tie his hands, if he would not be quiet. "O Master Sheriff," said Master Bradford, "I am quiet: God forgive you this, Master Sheriff." And one of the officers which made the fire, hearing Master Bradford so speaking to the sheriff, said, "If you have no better learning than that, you are but a fool, and were best hold your peace." To the which words Master Bradford gave no answer; but asked all the world forgiveness, and forgave all the world, and prayed the people to pray for him; and turned his head unto the young man that suffered with him, and said, "Be of good comfort, brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night:" and so spake no more words that any man did hear, but, embracing the reeds, said thus; "Strait is the way, and narrow is the gate, that leadeth to eternal salvation, and few there be that find it."
And thus they both ended their mortal lives, most like two lambs, without any alteration of their countenance, being void of all fear, hoping to obtain the price of the game that they had long run at; to the which I beseech Almighty God happily to conduct us, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Touching Master Woodrofe the sheriff, mention is made a little before how churlishly here he answered Master Bradford at the stake, not suffering him to speak, but commanding his hands to be tied, &c. The like extremity, or worse, he used also before to Master Rogers, whereof ye have heard before.
The said Woodrofe, sheriff, above mentioned, was joined in office with another, called Sir William Chester, for the year 1555. Between these two sheriffs such difference there was of judgment and religion, that the one (that is, Master Woodrofe) was wont commonly to laugh, the other to shed tears, at the death of Christ's people. And whereas the one was wont to restrain, and to beat the people, which were desirous to take them by the hands that should be burned: the other sheriff, contrariwise again, with much sorrow and mildness behaved himself, which I wish here to be spoken and known to the commendation of him, although I do not greatly know the party.
Furthermore, here by the way to note the severe punishment of God's hand against the said Woodrofe, as against all such cruel persecutors, so it happened, that within half a year after the burning of this blessed martyr, the said sheriff was so stricken on the right side, with such a palsy or stroke of God's hand, (whatsoever it was,) that for the space of eight years after, till his dying day, be was not able to turn himself in his bed, but as two men with a sheet were fain to stir him; and withal such an insatiable devouring came upon him, that it was monstrous to see. And thus continued he the space of eight years together.