298. NICHOLAS SHETERDEN, JOHN FRANKESH, AND HUMFREY MIDDLETON.
AVING now passed over the examinations of Master Bland, let us further proceed to the rest of his fellows con-captives, being joined the same time with him in the like cause and like affliction; the names of whom were Nicholas Sheterden, John Frankesh, Humfrey Middleton, Thacker, and Cocker, of whom Thacker only gave back. The rest, constantly standing to the truth, were altogether condemned by the suffragan of Canterbury, the twenty-fifth day of June, the year above expressed; touching whose examinations I shall not need long to stand. Forasmuch as the articles ministered against them were all one, so in their answers they little or nothing disagreed, as hereafter (by the Lord's help) you shall hear. In the mean time, because Nicholas Sheterden in his examinations had a little more large talk with the archdeacon and the commissary, I will first begin with the same.
"First, the archdeacon and commissary affirmed, that the very bare words of Christ, when he said, This is my body, did change the substance, without any other interpretation or spiritual meaning of the words."
Sheterden.--"Then, belike, when Christ said, This cup is my blood, the substance of the cup was changed into his blood, without any other meaning, and so the cup was changed, and not the wine."
Harpsfield.--"Not so; for when Christ said, This cup is my blood, he meant not the cup, but the wine in the cup."
Sheterden.--"If Christ spake one thing, and meant another, then the bare words did not change the substance; but there must be a meaning sought as well of the bread, as of the cup."
Harpsfield.--"There must be a meaning sought of the cup otherwise than the words stand; but of the bread it must be understood only as it standeth, without any other meaning."
Sheterden.--"Then do ye make one half of Christ's institution a figure, or borrowed speech, and the other half a plain speech; and so ye divide Christ's supper."
Harpsfield.--"Christ meant the wine, and not the cup, though he said, This cup is my blood."
Sheterden.--"Then show me whether the words which the priests do speak over the cup, do change the substance, or whether the mind of the priest doth it?"
Harpsfield.--"The mind of the priest doth it, and not the words."
Sheterden.--"If the mind of the priest doth it, and not the words, if the priest then do mind his harlot, or any other vain thing, that thing so minded was there made, and so the people do worship the priest's harlot, instead of Christ's blood. And again, none of the people can tell when it is Christ's blood, or when it is not, seeing the matter standeth in the mind of the priest; for no man can tell what the priest meaneth but himself; and so are they ever in danger of committing idolatry."
"Then was the archdeacon somewhat moved, and sat him down, and said to the commissary, 'I pray you, Master Commissary, speak you to him another while; for they are unreasonable and perverse answers as ever I heard of.'
"Then stood up the commissary, and said, 'Your argument is much against yourself; for ye grant that the bread is a figure of Christ's body, but the cup can be no figure of his blood, nor yet his very blood; and therefore Christ did not mean the cup, but the wine in the cup.'"
Sheterden.--"My argument is not against me at all; for I do not speak it to prove that the cup is his blood, nor the figure of his blood, but to prove that the bare words being spoken of the priest, do not change the substance any more of the bread, than they do change the cup into blood."
Commissary.--"It could not be spoken of the cup, when he said, This cup is my blood; but he meant the wine in the cup."
Sheterden.--"Then it remaineth for you to answer my question to the archdeacon; that is, whether the mind of the priest, when he speaketh over the cup, doth change it into blood, or the bare words?"
Commissary.--"Both together do it, the words and the mind of the priest together; yea, the intent and the words together do it."
Sheterden.--"If the words and intent together do change the substance, yet must the cup be his blood, and not the wine; forasmuch as the words are, This cup is my blood, and the intent, ye say, was the wine: or else the words take none effect, but the intent only."
"After, the commissary in his chamber said, it was the intent of the priest before he went to mass, without the words; for if the priest did intend to do as holy church had ordained, then the intent made the sacrament to take effect."
Sheterden.--"If the sacraments take effect of the intent of the priest, and not of God's word, then many parishes having a priest that intendeth not well, are utterly deceived, both in baptizing, and also worshipping that thing to be God, which is but bread; because, for lack of the priest's intent, the words do take none effect in it: so that by this it is ever doubtful, whether they worship Christ, or bread, because it is doubtful what the priests do intend."
"Then the commissary would prove to me, that Christ's manhood was in two places at one time, by these words of Christ in John iii., where he saith, No man ascendeth up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven; that is to say, the Son of man which is in heaven. By this he would prove, that Christ was then in heaven and in earth also, naturally and bodily."
Sheterden.--"This place and other must needs be understood for the unity of the person, in that Christ was God and man; and yet the matter must be referred to the Godhead, or else ye must fall into great error."
Commissary.--"This is not so: for it was spoken of the manhood of Christ, forasmuch as he saith, the Son of man which is in heaven."
Sheterden.--"If ye will needs understand it to be spoken of Christ's manhood, then must ye fall into the error of the Anabaptists, which deny that Christ took flesh of the Virgin Mary; for if there be no body ascended up, but that which came down, where is then his incarnation? for then he brought his body down with him."
Commissary.--"Lo, how you seek an error in me, and yet see not how ye err yourself;. for it cannot be spoken of the Godhead, except ye grant that God is passible: for God cannot come down, because he is not passible."
Sheterden.--"If that were a good argument, that God could not come down, because he is not passible; then it might be said, by the like argument, that God could not sit; and then heaven is not his seat: and then say as some do, that God hath no right band for Christ to sit at."
"Then the commissary affirmed plainly that it was true, 'God hath no right hand indeed.'"
Sheterden.--"Oh! what a spoil of Christ's religion will this be, that, because we cannot tell how God came down, therefore we shall say, that he came not down at all; and because we cannot tell what manner of hand he hath, to say that he hath no hand at all; and then he cannot reach the utmost part of the sea. O misery! at length it will come to pass, that God cannot sit, and then how can heaven be his seat; and if heaven be not his seat, then there is no heaven: and then, at length, I doubt ye will say there is no God, or else no other God but such as the heathen gods are, which cannot go nor feel."
Commissary.--"Why, doth not the Scripture say, that God is a Spirit? and what hand can a spirit have?"
Sheterden.--"Truth it is, God is a Spirit, and therefore is worshipped in spirit and truth; and as he is a Spirit, so hath he a spiritual power, so he hath a spiritual seat, a spiritual hand, and a spiritual sword; which we shall feel, if we go this way to work, as we begin. Because we know not what hand God hath, therefore, if we say he hath none, then it may as well be said, there is no Christ."
"Then the commissary said, he would talk no more with me; and so departed. And also the commissary was compelled to grant, that Christ's testament was broken, and his institution was changed from that he left it: but, he said, they had power so to do."
My first answering, after their law was established.
"Because I know ye will desire to hear from me some certainty of my state, I was called before the suffragan, and seven or eight of the chief priests, and examined of certain articles; and then I required to see their commission. They showed it to me, and said, 'There it is, and the king and queen's letters also.'
"Then I desired to have it read: and so in reading I perceived, that on some notable suspicion he might examine upon two articles; whether Christ's real presence were in the sacrament; and whether the Church of England be Christ's catholic church. To that I answered, that I had been a prisoner three quarters of a year, and as I thought wrongfully: reason would, therefore, that I should answer to those things wherefore I was prisoner.
"The suffragan said, his commission was, I must answer directly, yea or nay. This commission, said I, was not general to examine whom he will, but on just suspicion. He said I was suspected, and presented to him.
"Then I required that the accusation might be showed. He said he was not bound to show it, but he commanded me in the king and queen's name to answer directly."
Sheterden.--"And I, as a subject, do require of you justice: for that I have done, I ask no favour."
"He said I was suspected. I bade him prove that suspicion, or what cause he had to suspect."
Suffragan.--"Thou wast cast into prison for that cause."
Sheterden.--"That was a pretty suspicion, because I had suffered imprisonment contrary to God's law and the realm, that therefore I must now, for amends, be examined of suspicion without cause, to hide all the wrong done to me before. For when I was cast into prison, there was no law but I might speak as I did: therefore, in that point, I could be no more suspected than you which preached the same yourself not long before."
Suffragan.--"That was no matter to thee, what I preached."
Sheterden.--"Well, yet in the king and queen's name I must answer directly: and therefore I require, as a subject, that ye do not extend beyond your commission, but prove me suspect more than you yourself."
"Then said Master Mills, I had written to my mother, and he did see the letter, wherein I persuaded my mother to my opinions."
Sheterden.--"In that I did but my duty to certify her, I was not in prison for any evil. And that was before the law, also; and therefore no more suspicion was in me, than was in them which taught the like."
Mills.--"Well, ye are required here to answer directly, yea or no."
Sheterden.--"First, then, I require of you to prove his suspicion." And thus we tossed to and fro. At last the bishop said, he himself did suspect me. I asked, whereby?
Sufragan. "Well," said he, "I myself did suspect thee, and it is no matter whereby."
Sheterden.--"But your commission doth not serve you so to do without just cause of suspicion."
Sufragan.--"Well, yet did I suspect you."
Sheterden.--"It is not meet for you to be my accuser and my judge also; for that is too much for one man." And thus many words were multiplied, and they were much grieved.
Mills.--"If you were a Christian man, you would not be ashamed of your faith being required."
Sheterden.--"I am not ashamed indeed, I thank God, and if any man did come to me, either to teach or learn, I would declare it; but, forasmuch as I perceive you come neither to teach nor to learn, I hold it best not to answer you."
Mills.--"If you will not, then will we certify the king's council."
Sheterden.--"I am therewith content that you should certify that I had suffered three quarters' prison wrongfully, and therefore I desire to be justified or condemned, first for that I suffered such imprisonment; and then I will not refuse to answer your articles, though there were a bushel of them. But to say that I would answer, whereby you should heal all your wrong done to me against the law of God and the realm, I will not."
"Here much ado there was, to prove that he had no wrong; and again, that it was not they that did it. But said Sheterden, 'The commissary was one of them.' He answered, 'No, it was the archdeacon.' Sheterden said, 'You sat with him, and he asked your counsel in it: and yet if it were he, it was your church -- except the archdeacon and you be divided one from another.' 'Well;' said they, will ye now deny that ye said then, and promise here to submit yourself henceforth, and ye shall be delivered?'".
Sheterden.--"I am not so much bound to you to grant any such promise: and again, you shall well know that I would not promise to go cross the street for you: but if I did at any time offend your law, let me have the punishment. I ask no favour."
"Then said they, that it was obstinacy in him, that he would not answer, and a token that his faith was naught, seeing he was ashamed to utter it.
"'Nay,' said Sheterden, 'you shall well know I am not ashamed of my faith: but because you do so greedily seek blood, I will answer only to that you have against me."
Suffragan.--"Nay, you shall answer to the articles, or else be condemned upon suspicion."
Sheterden.--"I am content with that; yet all men shall know, that as ye suspect and can prove no cause, so shall ye condemn me without a matter, and then shall all men know ye seek my blood, and not justice."
Suffragan.--"No, we seek not thy blood, but thy conversion."
Sheterden.--"That we shall see: for then shall you prove my perversion first, before you condemn me on your suspicion without proof of the same: and, by that, I shall know whether you seek blood or no." Many other words were between them.
"At last stept up one Lovels a lawyer, which would prove his imprisonment not to be wrong, but right, by old statutes of Edward the Fourth, and Henry, &c.; but, at last, he was compelled to forsake those statutes from Michaelmas to Christmas, and then he said, it was no wrong.
"To this Nicholas said, If he could prove that men might wrongfully imprison before a law, and in the mean while make laws, and then, under that, hide the first wrong, then he said true; or else not.
"Thus he kept the ban-dogs at staves' end, not as thinking to escape them, 'but that I would see,' said he, 'the foxes leap above the ground for my blood: if they can reach it, (so it be the will of God,) yet we shall see them gape, and leap for it.'--From Westgate in haste.
Notes of Nicholas Sheterden, against the false worship and oblation of the sacrament.
"The holy sign instead of the thing signified is servile servitude; as St. Augustine termeth it, when the bread in the sacrament is by common and solemn error worshipped, instead of the flesh assumpted of the word of God.
"There was no mention of worshipping the creatures at the feast or first supper that Christ did celebrate: therefore the saying of Christ concerning divorce, may well be applied to them; it was not so from the beginning, nor shall be to the end.
"The once made oblation of Christ is hereby derogate, when this sacramental oblation and offering of thanksgiving is believed to be propitiatory, and that it purgeth the soul as well of the living as of the dead, against this saying to the Hebrews: With one only oblation he hath made perfect for ever those that are sanctified. Again, Where is remission, there is no more oblation for sins, making us clean by him.
"This word 'by himself' hath a vehemency and pith, that driveth all priests from authority to enterprise such oblation; whereas what he himself doth by himself, he leaveth not for others to do. So seemeth our purgatory already past and done, not to come and remaining to be done."
The examination of Nicholas Sheterden before the bishop of Winchester, then lord chancellor.
"I was called into a chamber before the lord chancellor, the suffragan, and others, priests I think for the most part. He standing to the table, called me to him, and because I saw the cardinal was not there, I bowed myself and stood near.
"Then said he, 'I have sent for you, because I hear you are indicted of heresy; and, being called before the commissioners, ye will not answer nor submit yourself. I said, 'If it like you, I did not refuse to answer; but I did plainly answer, that I had been in prison long time, and reason it was that I should be charged or discharged for that, and not to be examined of articles to hide my wrong imprisonment; neither did I know any indictment against me. If there were any, it could not be just, for I was not abroad since the law was made.'"
Winchester.--"Well, yet if such suspicion be of you, if you be a Christian, ye will declare that it is not true, and so purge yourself."
"I thought it sufficient to answer to mine offences, &c., trusting that they would lay no such burden upon me, whereby the wrong done to me might be covered, but I would be proved to have wrong or right. Winchester said, 'If thou wilt declare thyself to the church to be a Christian, thou shalt go, and then have a writ of wrong imprisonment,' &c.
"I said, 'I am not minded to sue now, but require to have right justice; but to make a promise I will not: but if I offend the law, then punish me accordingly. For it may be that my conscience is not persuaded, nor will be, in prison; seeing those things which I have learned, were by God's law openly taught and received by authority of the realm.' And he said, it was never received, that I might speak against the sacrament. I said, against some opinion of the sacrament it was openly taught.
"Winchester said, By no law, and that it was notable to consider that (all that while) God preserved that, so that no law could pass against it.
"I said, 'Their law did not only persuade me, but this most: when they preached unto us, they took pain to set out the word of God in our tongue, so that we might read and judge whether they say true or no; but now they take the light from us, and would have us believe it, because they say so; which is to me a great persuasion."'
Winchester.--"It was not a few that could be your guide in understanding, but the doctors and all the whole church. Now whom wouldest thou believe, either the few or the many?"
Sheterden.--"I do not believe for the few nor for the many; but only for that he bringeth the word, and showeth it to me to be so according to the process thereof."
"'Well,' said Winchester, 'then if an Arian come to thee with Scripture, thou wilt believe him, if he show this text, My Father is greater than I.'
"I answered, No, my Lord, he must bring me also the contrary place, and prove them both true, where he saith, My Father and I am one.'
"'Yea,' said 'Winchester, 'that is by charity, as we be one with him.'
"I said, that gloss would not stand with the rest of the Scripture, where he said, I am the very samethat I say to you; He said the truth, and the truth was God, &c., with much such like.
"And here he made many words (but very gently) of the sacrament: 'Likewise Christ said,' quoth he, 'it was his body; yea, (that is to say,) a figure of his body;' and how men did not consider the word was God, and God the word: and so provoked me with such temptation. But I let him alone, and said nothing.
"So, after many words, Winchester came to the church's faith, and comely orders of ceremonies and images. And then I joined to him again with the commandments. He said, that was done that no false thing should be made, as the heathen would worship a cat, because she killed mice. I said, that it was plain that the law forbade not only such, but even to make an image of God to any manner of likeness."
Winchester.--"Where find ye that?"
Sheterden.--"Forsooth in the law, where God gave them the commandments: for he said, Ye saw no shape, but heard a voice only; and added a reason why; lest they should after make images, and mar themselves: so that God would not show his shape, because they should have no image of him which was the true God," &c.
"Winchester said, I made a goodly interpretation. I said, no, it was the text.
"Then was the Bible called for, and when it came, he bade me find it, and I should straight be confounded with mine own words; so that if there were any grace with me, I would trust mine own wit no more: and when I looked, it was Latin.
"'Why,' said Winchester, 'can ye read no Latin?' 'No.'
"Then was the English Bible brought. He bade me find it; and so I read it aloud, and then he said; 'Lo, here thou mayest see; this is no more to forbid the image of God, than of any other beast, fowl, or fish' (the place was Deut. iv.). I said it did plainly forbid to make any of these as an image of God, because no man might know what shape he was of. Therefore might no man say of any image, This is an image of God.'"
Winchester.--"Well, yet by your leave, so much as was seen we may; that is, of Christ, of the Holy Ghost; and the Father appeared to Daniel, like an old man," &c.
Sheterden. That is no proof that we make images contrary to the commandment: for though the Holy Ghost appeared like a dove, yet was he not like in shape, but in certain qualities. And therefore when I saw the dove which is God's creature, indeed I might remember the Spirit to be simple and loving, &c.:" and with that he was somewhat moved, and said, I had learned my lesson; and asked who taught me; with many words. And he said he would prove how good and profitable images were to teach the unlearned, &c.
"At the last I said, 'My Lord, although I were able to make never so good a gloss upon the Commandments, yet obedience is better than all our good intents:' and much ado we had. At last he saw, he said, what I was, and how he had sent for me for charity's sake to talk with me, but now he would not meddle; and said, my wrong imprisonment could not excuse me, but I must clear myself.
"I said, that was easy for me to do; for I had not offended.
"Winchester said, I could not escape so; there I was deceived.
"I said, 'Well, then I am under the law,' &c.
"The archdeacon was there called in for me, and he laid to me, that with such arrogancy and stoutness as never was heard, I behaved myself before him; whereas he was minded with such mercy towards me, &c. And many lies he laid to me, 'that I was sent home till another time; and I would not be contented, but went out of the church with such an outcry as was notable.'
"I declare, that he falsely herein reported me, and brought in the laws then in the realm, and the queen's proclamation that none of her subjects should be compelled till the law were to compel; and that I rehearsed the same in the court for me; 'and I did use him then,' said I, 'as I used your Grace now, and no otherwise.'
"Winchester said, that I did not use myself very well now.-- I said, I had offered myself to be bailed, and to confer with them, when and where they would.
"Winchester said, I should not confer, but be obedient.-- I said, let me go, and I will not desire to confer neither; and when I offended, let them punish me: and so departed.
"By your brother.
Prisoner for the truth in Westgate."
The last examination with the condemnation of the four godly martyrs, Master Bland, John Frankesh, Nicholas Sheterden, and Humfrey Middleton.
ND thus much touching the particular, and several examinations of Nicholas Sheterden, and of Master Bland. Now to touch something also of the other martyrs, which the same time were examined, and suffered with them together, to wit, Humfrey Middleton of Ashford, and John Frankesh, vicar of Rolvenden, in the diocese of Kent above mentioned, here first would be declared the articles which publicly, in their last examinations, were jointly and severally ministered unto them by the foresaid Thornton, bishop of Dover. But forasmuch as these articles, being ordinary and of course, are already expressed in the story of Master Bland, as may appear before; it shall not therefore be needful to make any new rehearsal thereof.
To these seven articles then being propounded to the five persons above named, to wit, John Frankesh, John Bland, Nicholas Sheterden, Humfrey Middleton, and one Thacker, first answered John Frankesh somewhat doubtfully, desiring further respite to be given him of fourteen days to deliberate with himself: which was granted. Master Bland answered flatly and roundly, as before ye heard. Nicholas Sheterden and Humfrey Middleton answered to the first and second articles affirmatively. To the third, concerning the catholic church, after a sort they granted. To the fourth, and fifth, and sixth, touching the real presence, and the sacrament to be ministered in the Latin tongue, and in one kind, they refused utterly to answer. Sheterden said, he would not answer thereto before the cause were determined why he was imprisoned, and so still remained prisoner, before the laws of parliament received, &c. Middleton added moreover and confessed, that he believed in his own God, saying, "My living God, and no dead God," &c. Thacker only relented, and was content to take penance. Thus the aforesaid four, upon these answers, were condemned by the bishop of Dover, the twenty-fifth day of June, anno 1555.
And so, being given to the secular power, they were burned at Canterbury the twelfth of July, at two several stakes, but all in one fire together, where they, in the sight of God and of his angels, and before men, like true soldiers of Jesus Christ, gave a constant testimony to the truth of his holy gospel.
Illustration -- Bland, Frankesh, Sheterden and Midleton at the Stake
The Christian prayer of Nicholas Sheterden before his death.
"O Lord my God and Saviour, which art Lord in heaven and earth, Maker of all things visible and invisible, I am the creature and work of thy hands. Lord God, look upon me, and other thy people, which at this time are oppressed of the worldly-minded for thy law's sake: yea, Lord, thy law itself is now trodden under foot, and men's inventions exalted above it, and for that cause do I, and many thy creatures, refuse the glory, praise, and commodity of this life, and do choose to suffer adversity, and to be banished; yea, to be burnt with the books of thy word, for the hope's sake that is laid up in store. For, Lord, thou knowest, if we would but seem to please men in things contrary to thy word, we might by thy permission enjoy these commodities that others do, as wife, children, goods, and friends, which all I acknowledge to be thy gifts, given to the end I should serve thee. And now, Lord, that the world will not suffer me to enjoy them, except I offend thy laws, behold, I give unto thee my whole spirit, soul, and body; and lo, I leave here all the pleasures of this life, and do now leave the use of them for the hope's sake of eternal life purchased in Christ's blood, and promised to all them that fight on his side, and are content to suffer with him for his truth, whensoever the world and the devil shall persecute the same.
"O Father, I do not presume unto thee, in mine own righteousness; no, but only in the merits of thy dear Son my Saviour. For the which excellent gift of salvation I cannot worthily praise thee, neither is any sacrifice worthy, or to be accepted with thee, in comparison of our bodies mortified, and obedient unto thy will. And now, Lord, whatsoever rebellion hath been, or is found in my members, against thy will, yet do I here give unto thee my body to the death, rather than I will use any strange worshipping, which I beseech thee accept at my hand for a pure sacrifice. Let this torment be to me the last enemy destroyed, even death, the end of misery, and the beginning of all joy, peace, and solace; and when the time of resurrection cometh, then let me enjoy again these members then glorified, which now be spoiled and consumed by the fire. O Lord Jesus, receive my spirit into thy hands. Amen."
Letters of Nicholas Sheterden; and, first, a letter to his mother.
"After my humble and bounden duty remembered, well-beloved mother, this shall be to wish you increase of grace and godly wisdom, that ye may see and perceive the crafty bewitching of Satan our mortal enemy, which, as I have divers times declared unto you, doth not openly show himself in his own likeness, but under colour of devotion deceiveth them that keep not a diligent eye upon him; but, having confidence in men's traditions and customs of the world, leaving the commandments of God, and testament of his Son Christ Jesus our Lord, do grow more into superstition and hypocrisy, than into wisdom and true holiness. For this is most true, that Satan, the enemy of souls, doth by his ministers make many believe, that those things which they compel us unto for their bellies' sake, have many godly significations, although they be most contrary to God's will, as doubtless they be; even as did the serpent in Paradise to our first mother Eve. 'What,' said he, 'hath God commanded ye shall not eat of all the trees in the garden?' The woman said, Of the fruits of the trees in the garden we may eat.' 'But of the tree in the midst of the garden,' said God, 'see ye eat not, lest ye die.' Even so our ministers nowadays say, 'Hath God commanded ye shall not make you any image or likeness of any thing?' 'Yea, forsooth.' 'Tush,' say they, 'what harm can they do? May we not remember God the better when we see his image or picture? for they are good books for the laymen:' but indeed they be better for the priests, because they receive the offerings.
"And look how truly the promise of the serpent was kept with Eve, so is the persuasion of our priests found true to us. For as Adam and Eve did become like God in knowing good and evil, so are we in remembering God by his image. For Adam's eyes were so open, that he lost both innocency and righteousness, and was become most miserable of all creatures: and even so we remember Christ so well by images, that we forget his commandments, and count his testament, confirmed in his blood, for stark madness or heresy; so miserably have we remembered him, that of all people we are most blind. And this doth follow upon our presumption, when we remember God by breaking of his law: and therefore surely, except we repent shortly, God will remember us in his wrath, and reward us with his plagues: as sure as there is a God it will come to pass.
"But I know the craftiness of them herein (I thank God) which will say, 'Where went he to school? Is he wiser than our great doctors that studied all their life!' And lo, they say that it is good hay: although we smell it musty ourselves, yet must we believe it is sweet; and then pay them well for their so saying, and all is safe. But I might say again, What, sir! be ye wiser than Christ, and God his Father, or the Holy Ghost? What! wiser than the prophets, and the holy apostles, and all the holy martyrs? I pray you, sir, where had you your high learning? Is it higher than God (being in heaven) is able to reach; or have ye set it lower in hell than ever Christ durst to venture? For it is some strange learning, belike, that Christ and his apostles could never attain to the knowledge of it. But vain men are never without some shift; for, peradventure, they will not be ashamed to say, that Christ, coming on his Father's message, did forget half his errand by the way. For I dare say, the greater half of their ceremonies were never commanded by Christ: yea, I doubt it would be hard to find one in the church perfectly as he left it: so Romishly hath antichrist turned the church upside down for lucre's sake.
"Beloved mother, as I have oftentimes said unto you, even so now I beseech you from my very heart-root in Christ, to consider your own soul's health is offered you; do not cast it off; we have not long time here. Why should we deceive ourselves either for ease of our flesh, or for the winning of this world's treasure? I know that some will say to you, Why should we condemn our fathers that lived thus? God forbid that we should condemn any that did according to their knowledge: but let us take heed that they condemn not us, for if they had heard the word as we have, and had been warned as we have, it is to be thought that they would more thankfully have received it than we do: yea, they were more faithful in that they knew, than many now are. Therefore they shall he our condemnation, if we do not embrace this grace offered us. And surely look how many of them God will accept and save, those shall we never see, nor have any part among them: for our disobedience is more great than their ignorance. Wherefore, if we will meet our fathers in bliss and joy, let us not refuse his mercy offered more largely to us than to them, even according to Christ's promise, which said, after such great ignorance as to seek him from country to country, and find him not: 'Yet shall the gospel,' saith he, 'be preached in all the world, and then shall the end come.'
"And now let us know the time of our visitation, and not turn back again, seeing we are once delivered: for surely God will not bear it at our hands to turn backward. Oh remember Lot's wife. God must needs punish out of hand our shameful backsliding, either with induration and hardness of heart, so that they shall persecute his church and his true servants, or else reward it with open vengeance and plagues. And therefore, good mother, accept this my simple letter as a fruit of my love and obedience to you. Would God we might be so knit in faith and trust in God's word and promises here in this life, as we might together enjoy the bliss and consolation of eternal life; which I desire and seek above all worldly treasure, as ye partly know. If I would seek the good will of men contrary to my conscience, I could make some my friends which now, peradventure, are jealous over me amiss: but, I thank God, let them weigh the matter between God and their consciences, and they have no just cause so to do. Nevertheless I would they would yet refrain and put their matter and mine into the even balance of God's most holy word, there to be weighed by the mind of the Holy Ghost, expressed unto us by the holy patriarchs, and prophets, and by Jesus Christ our only Saviour and Mediator, and by his holy apostles. And then, I doubt not, but our matter shall be ended with peace and joyfulness of heart; which God grant us for his mercy's sake. Amen.
"Your own child.
Prisoner for the truth in Westgate, 1555."
A letter to his brother, Walter Sheterden.
"I wish you health in Christ, true knowledge of his word, and a faithful obedient heart unto the same. It is showed me, my brother, that ye willed me by a letter made to a friend of yours to persuade with me, that I should be ruled by mine uncle, which saith, he will bestow his goods very largely upon me, if I should not stand too high in mine own conceit. But, my good brother, I trust ye do not judge so evil of me, that I should have a faith to sell for money. For though he or you were able to give me the treasure of the whole country, yet, I thank my Lord God, I do judge it but a heap of dung, in respect of the treasure hid within; yet I do esteem a buckle of your shoe, if it come with good will. And for to be counselled and ruled by him or you, or any other my friends, I do not, neither have refused it, if they require no more of me than my power, and that which belongeth to mortal men. But, if they require of me any thing which pertaineth to God only, there is neither high nor low, friend nor foe, (I trust in God,) shall get it of me, nor yet the angels in heaven.
"For though I be not learned, (as the vain men of the world call learning,) yet, I thank my Lord God, I have learned out of God's book, to know God from his creatures, and to know Christ from his sacraments, and to put a difference between the merits of Christ's passion and his supper, and a difference between the water of baptism and the Holy Ghost, and not to mix and mingle all things confusedly together; so that if one ask me a question or a reason of my faith, I must say thus: 'I believe as holy church believeth.' If he ask me what is the order of that faith, I should be so ignorant that I could not discern God from his creatures, nor Christ from his sacraments! If I should so monstrously utter my faith, that I were not able to judge between Christ's birth and his burial, nor which were first, of his mortification, and his glorification, who would believe that my faith were sound?
"For some affirm that Christ did not give to his apostles a mortal and a passible body, but an immortal and glorified body, so that he should have a glorified body before his death, and so his glorification was before his resurrection; and that he was risen before he was crucified, and crucified before his baptism; and then they may as well say, he was baptized before his birth, and born before he was conceived, and conceived before he was promised; and that were even right antichrist, to turn all things backward, and then say, 'Oh! ye must believe, for God is almighty, he can do all things,' &c. Truth it is, that God is almighty indeed, and yet I may not believe things contrary to his word, that Christ's body was glorified before he died: for God's omnipotency doth not stand in things contrary to his will, but in performing his will at his pleasure in time; neither doth he require of us to judge or believe of his almighty power, that he hath made the end of the world to come before the beginning, nor yet the fruit to come before the blossom; and yet is he nevertheless almighty.
"But if, peradventure, ye shall think with yourself, Why, they are learned; it were marvel but they should know what is the truth, as well as others which never kept no such study, &c.: to that I answer, that if they had studied God's word, the Author of truth, as they have done logic and Duns, with the legend of lies, they should have been as expert in the truth, as they be now in bald reasons. But thus hath God fulfilled his promise, that such should be deluded with lies, which would not believe nor walk in his truth.
"And again: this is a good cause to make us think surely, that this was the cause that God gave them over at the first to error, after the apostles' time, by little and little, as they grew in sin. For seeing we had his truth now among us a few years, because we did not obey unto it, we see what a sudden change God hath brought upon us for our sins' sake. And why should not we think that this and such-like disobedience was the cause that God took his word from all Christendom at the first, and cast a darkness upon them that would not walk in his light? For it is evident enough to see how unlike their doings be to Christ's and his apostles: and that seen, either we must judge Christ's doings very slender, and theirs good, or else that indeed they be the very antichrists, which should come and turn all things out of frame. Thus I have been bold to trouble you, which I trust shall not be altogether in vain. Pray for me as I do for you.
"By your brother, NICHOLAS SHETERDEN.
Prisoner for the truth in Westgate."
Another letter to his brother.
"God, which is the giver of all goodness, and that freely for his love to us, (not only without our deserts, but contrary to the same,) grant you, my brother, such increase of godly knowledge and love unto the virtues thereunto belonging, as may give you such a taste in heavenly things, that all treasure of earthly things may savour to you, as indeed they are, most vain and uncertain; so shall ye never take them for no better than they be. Yea, whether God take them from us, or give them unto us, we shall know ourselves neither richer nor poorer before God. But if we lay up in our hearts the treasure of his word, we shall not only enrich ourselves against the time of need, but also arm ourselves against the battle with weapons and harness which is invincible, and clothe ourselves against the marriage. For behold, the Lord hath called us of long time to the feast, and blown the trumpet to prepare the battle. Let us know the time of our visitation, lest the Lord, sitting on his mount, bewail our destruction, which he desireth not, but because he is just to punish such as continue in sin, even as he is merciful to forgive the repentant that turn in time; for so is God, that cannot deny himself.
"Let us therefore in this day, while it is called to-day, hear his voice, and not harden our hearts by resistance of his will, lest he swear in his wrath, that we shall not enter into his rest. Let us count it sufficient, that we have spent the time past, as St. Peter saith, after the will of the Gentiles, in eating and drinking, chambering and wantonness, and in abominable idolatry, &c. And now let us essay a new life, and trade our members in virtue another while, lest, peradventure, we might run past any return in the contrary. But, if we now return and lay hand of his word in deed and verity, as we have long time done in talk and liberty, then will God heap upon us such certificate of conscience, as shall kindle our consolation in him, so that all treasure shall be dung to the excellent knowledge of our Saviour. Dear brother, my heart's desire and prayer to God is, that we may together enjoy the bliss of eternal inheritance by one spiritual regeneration and new birth, as we are joined by nature. But, alack, the way and mean thereunto hath been much neglected of me -- I will not say of you, for I had rather ye should accuse yourself -- for no doubt the best of us both hath not sought for wisdom in God's word, as some in the world whom we know have sought for money: therefore they shall be our judges, if we do not learn by them. Yea, the very emmet, as Solomon saith, doth teach us to provide for the time to come; for she provideth in summer against winter.
"This is the best token I have for you now, which, though it be simple, yet shall it declare partly my heart's desire to you-ward, which is even as mine own soul. Let nothing dismay you for my cause: but be ye sure I shall have victory in the truth, which truth is stronger than kings, wine, or women. For, as Zerubbabel saith, Wine is unrighteous, the king is unrighteous, women are unrighteous, yea, all the children of men are unrighteous; but the truth endureth, and is always strong, and conquereth for ever without end. Therefore this is to desire you, and all other my friends that wish me good, to pray that God will always keep me in his truth, as he hath begun; which prayer, if it be of such a mind as laboureth to depart from evil, shall be to me the greatest pleasure under heaven; for I desire nothing in comparison of God's truth. I thank him of his mercy, which so hath wrought; for I take it as a sure seal of the endless joy which shall hereafter follow -- which God bring us unto, when his will and pleasure is.; Amen.--
Another letter of .Nicholas Sheterden to his mother, written the day before his death.
"O my good mother, whom I love with reverence in the Lord, and according to my duty, I desire your favourable blessing and forgiveness of all my misdeeds towards you. O my good mother, in few words, I wish you the same salvation, which I hope myself to feel, and partly taste of before this come to you to read; and in the resurrection, I verily believe to have it more perfectly in body and soul joined together for ever; and in that day God grant you to see my face with joy: but, dear mother, then beware of that great idolatry, and blasphemous mass. O let not that be your god, which mice and worms can devour. Behold, I call heaven and earth to record, that it is no god, yea, the fire that consumeth it, and the moistness that causeth it to mould; and I take Christ's Testament to witness, that it is none of his ordinances, but a mere invention of men, and a snare to catch innocents' blood; and now that God hath showed it unto you, be warned in time. O give over old customs, and become new in the truth. What state soever your fathers be in, leave that to God; and let us follow the counsel of his word. Dear mother, embrace it with hearty affection; read it with obedience; let it be your pastime: but yet cast off all carnal affections, and love of worldly things; so shall we meet in joy at the last day, or else I bid you farewell for evermore. O farewell my friends and lovers all: God grant me to see your faces in joy. Amen.--From Westgate, the eleventh of July, 1555.
"Your child, written with his hand, and sealed with his blood, Nicholas Sheterden, being appointed to be slain."
The copy of a letter written to his wife.
"I wrote unto you as one that longed more to hear of your health, than of all worldly treasure, willing you to entreat Esau, the elder brother by nature, gently, giving to him his own, yea, and offer him one of the droves, and say, they be Jacob's, and are sent for a present to my Lord Esau; but he will not take it, &c. Now, my beloved, ye know the blessing of our Father is, that the elder shall serve the younger, and Wisdom, our mother, hath taught us the same; and I know ye do complain of your servant the Flesh, that he is rebellious, disobedient, and untoward; unruly and crookedly, ye think, he doth his service: but yet behold, how shall ye plead your cause before an indifferent judge? For if it be true that his service be not according to his duty, as it is many times found in servants; yet, I say, can you show your cause to no indifferent judge, but he shall object against you that he is not kept like a servant, but he lacketh both meat and drink, and other necessaries meet and due for a servant: so shall ye take more shame of your own complaint, than remedy or vantage against your servant; and it shall be a cloak for him to hide all his rebellion and untoward service, because ye have misused him.
"And therefore my sentence is, that ye patiently bear with him in small faults, and amend your own great faults, as oppression, cruelty, and covetousness, requiring more than a servant can do, specially being tired with labour, famined with hunger, and lamed with stripes. And these things amended, if he do his service negligently, (as, no doubt, sometimes he will,) yet then ye may boldly correct him with discretion; and sometimes if he do not his task, ye may make him go to bed supperless: but yet beat him not with durable strokes, neither withhold his meat in due time, and pinch him not by the belly continually, but let him have something to joy in: only watch him, and keep him from doing of harm. Though he be but a stranger in the life that is in God, yet be good to strangers; for we were all strangers in darkness, and captives in sin, as well soul and spirit, being in Egypt, as now the flesh is yet unbaptized with the terrible Red Sea of death; and remember that one law abideth for the stranger,-- I mean, one reward abideth both for body and soul in the land of everlasting rest. And therefore entreat him gently, and deal with him justly now: for the time will come that the yoke of bondage shall be taken from his neck, and he shall be a fellow heir with your younger brother.
"Circumcise him, therefore, but do not misuse him, nor keep him from his own; but deal mercifully with the stranger, that he may say, 'Oh! of what understanding heart is this people: who hath God, or where is God, so nigh as to these?' God make you wise and politic in heart, victorious in the field of this world, to rule the nations with a rod. But kill not the Gibeonites, with whom peace is taken; but let them draw water and hew wood, but give them their meat and drink due for labourers. And be glad because your disease is so remedied; for it is better and easier for a thirsty labouring man to drink, than for a drunken man to tell a sober-wise tale. Yea, it is a token that ye have earnestly followed your labour, and not kept company with drunkards and belly-gods: and therefore be glad, I say, yea, and glad again; for great is your reward in heaven: yea, blessed shall she be, that in this your zeal shall meet you, and withdraw your hand from revenging yourself upon that churlish Nabal: which thing I hope to do now with these sweet raisins and frails of figs. I, being of one house with your servant Nabal, I dare say to you that Churlishness is his name: but revenge not, for the Lord shall do it in his due time. Farewell, mine own heart.
"Yours in bonds at Westgate.
The next day after the condemnation of these aforesaid, which was the twenty-sixth day of July, were also condemned for the same articles, William Coker, William Hopper of Cranbrook, Henry Laurence, Richard Wright of Ashford, William Stere of Ashford. But because the execution of these martyrs pertaineth not to this month, more shall be said, the Lord willing, of them, when we come to the month following of August.