358. EDMUND ALLIN AND OTHERS, MARTYRED IN KENT.
Seven godly martyrs, five women and two men, burned at Maidstone, for the word of truth, and professing the sincere religion of Christ, June the eighteenth.
I showed a little before, how after the universal proclamation was sent and set forth by the king and queen in the month of February last, the storm of persecution began in all places to rise (whereof some part also is declared before): but yet in no place more than in the country and diocese of Canterbury, by reason of certain the aforesaid inquisitors, being now armed with authority, but especially by reason of Richard Thornton, suffragan of Dover, and Harpsfield, archdeacon of Canterbury, who of their own nature were so furious and fiery against the harmless flock of Christ, that there was no need of any proclamation to stir up the coals of their burning cruelty, by reason whereof many a godly saint lieth slain under the altar; as in divers places of this book well may appear.
And now to return to the said diocese of Canterbury again, in the next month following, being the month of June, the eighteenth day of the same, were seven Christian and true faithful martyrs of Christ burned at Maidstone, whose names here follow: Joan Bradbridge of Staplehurst, Walter Appleby of Maidstone, Petronil his wife, Edmund Allin of Frittenden, Katharine his wife, John Manning's wife of Maidstone, and Elizabeth a blind maiden.
As concerning the general articles commonly objected to them in the public consistory, and the order of their condemnation, it differeth not much from the usual manner expressed before, neither did their answers in effect much differ from the others that suffered under the same ordinary in the foresaid diocese of Canterbury.
Now as touching their accusers and manner of apprehension, and their private conflicts with the adversaries, I find no great matter coming to my hands, save only of Edmund Allin some intimation is given me, how his troubles came, and what was his cause and answers before the justices, as here consequently ye shall understand.
The story of Edmund Allin.
This Allin was a miller, of the parish of Frittenden in Kent, and in a dear year, when many poor people were like to starve, he fed them, and sold his corn better cheap by half than others did; and did not that only, but also fed them with the food of life, reading to them the Scriptures, and interpreting them. This being known to the popish priests thereabout dwelling, by the procurement of them, namely, of John Tailor, parson of Frittenden, and Thomas Henden, parson of Staplehurst, he was eftsoons complained of to the justices, and brought before Sir John Baker, knight; who, first sending for them, committed both him and his wife to ward; but not long after they were let out, I know not how, and so went over unto Calais, where, after that he had continued a certain space, he began to be troubled in conscience; and there meeting with one John Webbe, of the same parish of Frittenden, (who was likewise fled from the tyranny of Sir John Baker and parson Tailor,) said unto him, that he could not be in quiet there, whatsoever the cause was; "for God," said he, "had something to do for him in England." And thus shortly he returned home again to the parish of Frittenden, where was a cruel priest, there parson, called John Tailor.
This parson Tailor, being informed by his brother sexton, that Edmund Allin the miller, and his wife, were returned, and were not at mass-time in the church; as he was the same time in the midst of his mass, upon a Sunday, a little before the elevation, (as they term it,) even almost at the lifting up of his Romish god, he turned him to the people in a great rage, and commanded them with all speed to go unto their house, and apprehend them, and he would come to them with as much haste as might be possible. Which promise he well performed; for he had not so soon made an end of Ite, missa est, and the vestments off his back, but by and by he was at the house; and there laying hand of the said Allin, caused him again to be brought to Sir John Baker, with a grievous complaint of his exhorting and reading the Scriptures to the people: and so were he and his wife sent to Maidstone prison.-- Witnessed by Richard Fletcher, vicar of Cranbrooke, and John Webbe of Frittenden.
They were not so soon in prison, but Master Baker immediately sent unto their house certain of his men, John Dove, Thomas Best, Thomas Linley, Percival Barber, with the aforesaid John Tailor, parson of Frittenden, and Thomas Henden, parson of Staplehurst, to take an inventory of all the goods that were in the house, where they found, in the bedstraw, a casket locked with a padlock; and so, cutting the wist thereof, opened it, and found therein a sackcloth bag of money, containing the sum of thirteen or fourteen pounds, partly in gold and partly in silver; which money after they had told, and put in the bag again, like good carvers for themselves, they carried it away with them.
Besides also they found there certain books, as Psalters, Bibles, and other writings; all which books, with the money, were delivered to the foresaid priest, Thomas Henden,. parson of Staplehurst; and after, in the reign of this queen, were by right law recovered from him again, as in records remaineth to be seen.
Thus good Edmund Allin and his wife, being maliciously accused, wrongfully imprisoned, and cruelly spoiled and robbed of all their goods, were brought (as is aforesaid) before Sir John Baker the justice, to be examined; who, taunting and reviling him without all mercy and pity, asked him if those were the fruits of his gospel, to have conventicles to gather people together, to make conspiracies to sow sedition and rebellion. And thus he began with him to reason.
Baker.--"Who gave thee authority to preach and interpret? Art thou a priest? Art thou admitted thereunto? Let me see thy licence."
Martin Collins, Sir John Baker's schoolmaster, said, "Surely he is an arrant heretic, and worthy to be burned."
Allin.--"And it may please your Honour to give me leave to answer in the cause of my faith; I am persuaded that God hath given me this authority, as he hath given to all other Christians. Why are we called Christians, if we do not follow Christ, if we do not read his law, if we do not interpret it to others that have not so much understanding? Is not Christ our Father? Shall not the son follow the Father's steps? Is not Christ our Master, and shall the scholar be inhibited to learn and preach his precepts? Is not Christ our Redeemer, and shall not we praise his name, and serve him that hath redeemed us from sin and damnation? Did not Christ, being but twelve years of age, dispute with the doctors, and interpret the prophet Isaiah? and yet notwithstanding he was neither of the tribe of Levi, which were priests, but of the royal tribe of Judah; neither had taken any outward priesthood: wherefore, if we be Christians, we must do the same."
Collins.--"And it shall like your Honour, what a knave is this, that compareth himself with Christ!"
Baker.--"Let him alone, he will pump out anon an infinite heap of heresies. Hast thou any more to say for thyself?"
Allin.--"Yea, that I have. Adam was licensed of God, and Abraham was commanded to teach his children and posterity. And so David teacheth in divers Psalms. And Solomon also preached to the people, as the book of the Preacher proveth very well, where he teacheth that there is no immortal felicity in this life, but in the next. And Noah taught them that were disobedient in his days, and therefore is called the eighth preacher of righteousness, in the Second Epistle of Peter. Also in Numbers xi., where Moses had chosen seventy elders to help him to teach and rule the rest, Eldad and Medad preached in the tents; wherefore Joshua, being offended, complained to Moses that Eldad and Medad did preach without licence. To whom Moses answered, and wished that all the people could do the like. Why should I be long? Most of the priests were not of the tribe of Levi and Aaron."
Collins.--"These are authorities of the Old Testament, and therefore abrogated; but thou art a fool, and knowest no school-points. Is not the law divided into the law ceremonial, moral, and judicial?"
Allin.--"I grant that the ceremonies ceased when Christ came, as St. Paul proveth to the Hebrews; and to the Colossians, where he saith, Let no man judge you in any part of the sabbath-day, new moon, or other ceremonies, which are figures of things to come; for Christ is the body."
Collins.--"And are not the judicials abrogated by Christ?"
Allin.--"They are confirmed both by Christ in Matthew v., and by Paul in 1 Tim. iv.: The law, saith he, is not set forth for the virtuous and godly; but for men-slayers, perjured, adulterers, and such-like."
Collins.--"Thou art a heretic. Wilt thou call the judicials of Moses again? Wilt thou have adultery punished with death? disobedient children to their parents to be stoned? Wilt thou have legem talionis? But thou art an ass. Why should I speak Latin to thee, thou erroneous rebel? Shall we now smite out eye for eye, tooth for tooth? Thou art worthy to have thy teeth and tongue plucked out."
Allin.--"If we had that law, we should neither have disobedient children, neither adulterers, neither false witness-bearers, neither ruffians."
Baker.--"Master Collins, let us return to our first matter. Why didst thou teach the people, whom thou saidst [thou] didst feed both bodily and spiritually, being no priest?"
Allin.--"Because that we are all kings to rule our affections, priests to preach out the virtues and word of God, as Peter writeth, and lively stones to give light to others. For as out of flint stones cometh forth that which is able to set all the world on fire, so out of Christians should spring the beams of the gospel, which should inflame all the world. If we must give a reckoning of our faith to every man, and now to you demanding it, then must we study the Scriptures, and practise them. What availeth it a man to have meat, and will eat none; and apparel, and will wear none; or to have an occupation, and to teach none; or to be a lawyer, and utter none? Shall every artificer be suffered, yea, and commended, to practise his faculty and science, and the Christian forbidden to exercise his? Doth not every lawyer practise his law? Is not every Christian a follower of Christ? Shall ignorance, which is condemned in all sciences, be practised of Christians? Doth not St. Paul forbid any man's spirit to be quenched? Doth he prohibit any man that hath any of these gifts, which he repeateth, (1 Cor. xiv.,) to practise the same? Only he forbiddeth women, but no man. The Jews never forbade any. Read the Acts of the Apostles. And the restraint was made by Gregory, the ninth pope of that name, as I heard one, a learned man, preach in King Edward's days."
Collins.--"This villain (and it like your Honour) is mad. By my priesthood, I believe that he will say, that a priest hath no more authority than another man. Doth not a priest bind and loose? "
Allin.--"No, my sin bindeth me, and my repentance looseth. God forgiveth sin only, and no priest: for every Christian, when he sinneth, bindeth himself, and when he repenteth, looseth himself. And if any other be loosed from his sin by my exhortation, I am said to loose him; and if he persevere in sin, notwithstanding my exhortation, I am said to bind him, although it is God that bindeth and looseth, and giveth the increase. Therefore saith Christ, Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them; and whose soever sins they forgive, they are forgiven; and whose soever they retain, they are retained. Neither hath the pope any keys save the keys of error; for the key that openeth the lock to God's mysteries and to salvation, is the key of faith and repentance. And as I have heard learned men reason, St. Augustine and Origen, with others, are of this opinion."
Then they reviled him, and laid him in the stocks all the night; wherewith certain that were better minded, being offended with such extremity, willed Allin to keep his conscience to himself, and to follow Baruch's counsel in the sixth chapter: Wherefore when ye see the multitude of people worshipping them behind and before, say ye in your hearts, O Lord, it is thou that ought only to be worshipped. Wherewith he was persuaded to go to hear mass the next day; and suddenly, before the sacring, went out; and considered in the churchyard with himself, that such a little cake between the priest's fingers could not be Christ, nor a material body, neither to have soul, life, sinews, bones, flesh, legs, head, arms, nor breast; and lamented that he was seduced by the place of Baruch, which his conscience gave him to be no Scripture, or else to have another meaning. And after this he was brought again before Sir John Baker, who asked why he did refuse to worship the blessed sacrament of the altar.
Allin.--"It is an idol."
Collins.--"It is God's body."
Allin.--"It is not."
Collins.--"By the mass it is."
Allin.--"It is bread."
Collins.--"How provest thou that?"
Allin.--"When Christ sat at his supper, and gave them bread to eat."
Allin.--"Yea, bread, which you call Christ's body. Sat he still at the table, or was he both in their mouths and at the table? If he were in their mouths and at the table, then had he two bodies, or else had a fantastical body; which is an absurdity to say it."
Baker.--"Christ's body was glorified, and might be in more places than one."
Allin.--"Then had he more bodies than one, by your own placing of him."
Collins.--"Thou ignorant ass! the schoolmen say, that a glorified body may be every where."
Allin.--"If his body was not glorified till it rose again, then was it not glorified at his last supper; and therefore was not at the table and in their mouths, by your own reason."
Collins.--"A glorified body occupieth no place."
Allin.--"That which occupieth no place, is neither God, nor any thing else. But Christ's body, say you, occupieth no place; therefore it is neither God, nor any thing else. If it be nothing, then is your religion nothing. If it be God, then have we four in one Trinity, which is the person of the Father, the person of the Son, the person of the Holy Ghost, the human nature of Christ. If Christ be nothing, which you must needs confess, if he occupieth no place, then is our study in vain, our faith frustrate, and our hope without reward."
Collins.--"This rebel will believe nothing but Scripture. How knowest thou that it is the Scripture, but by the church? and so saith St. Augustine."
Allin.--"I cannot tell what St. Augustine saith, but I am persuaded, that it is Scripture by divers arguments: first, that the law worketh in me my condemnation. The law telleth me that of myself I am damned; and this damnation, Master Collins, you must find in yourself, or else you shall never come to repentance. For as this grief and sorrow of conscience, without faith, is desperation; so is a glorious and Romish faith, without the lamentation of a man's sins, presumption. The second is the gospel, which is the power and Spirit of God. This Spirit, saith St. Paul, certifieth my spirit, that I am the son of God, and that these are the Scriptures. The third are the wonderful works of God, which cause me to believe that there is a God, though we glorify him not as God. The sun, the moon, the stars, and other his works, (as David discourseth in Psalm xix.,) declare that there is a God, and that these are the Scriptures, because that they teach nothing else but God, and his power, majesty, and might; and because the Scripture teacheth nothing dissonant from this prescription of nature. And fourthly, because that the word of God gave authority to the church in paradise, saying, that the seed of the woman should break down the serpent's head. This seed is the gospel; this is all the Scriptures, and by this we are assured of eternal life; and these words, The seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head, gave authority to the church, and not the church to the word."
Baker.--"I heard say, that you spake against priests and bishops."
Allin.--"I spake for them; for now they have so much living, and especially bishops, archdeacons, and deans, that they neither can nor will teach God's word. If they had a hundred pounds a piece, then would they apply their study: now they cannot for other affairs."
Collins.--"Who will then set his children to school?"
Allin.--"Where there is now one set to school for that end, there would be forty, because that one bishop's living, divided into thirty or forty parts, would find so many as well learned men as the bishops be now, who have all this living; neither had Peter or Paul any such revenue."
Baker.--"Let us despatch him; he will mar all."
Collins.--"If every man had a hundred pounds, as he saith, it would make more learned men."
Baker.--"But our bishops would be angry, if that they knew it."
Allin.--"It were for a commonwealth to have such bishoprics divided, for the further increase of learning."
Baker.--"What sayest thou to the sacrament?
Allin.--"As I said before."
Baker.--"Away with him."
And thus was he carried to prison, and afterwards burned. And thus much touching the particular story of Edward Allin and his wife; who, with the five other martyrs above named, being seven, (to wit, five women and two men,) were all together burned at Maidstone the year and month aforementioned, and the eighteenth day of the same month.
Illustration -- The Maidstone Martyrs at the Stake
Another story of like cruelty, showed upon other seven martyrs, burnt at Canterbury; three men and four women.
Among such infinite seas of troubles in these most dangerous days, who can withhold himself from bitter tears, to see the madding rage of these pretended catholics, who, being never satisfied with blood to fointain their carnal kingdom, presume so highly to violate the precise law of God's commandments, in slaying the simple poor lambs of the glorious congregation of Jesus Christ, and that for the true testimony of a good conscience, in confessing the immaculate gospel of their salvation? What heart will not lament the murdering mischief of these men, who for want of work do so wreak their tine on silly poor women, whose weak imbecility, the more strength it lacketh by natural imperfection, the more it ought to be helped, or at least pitied; and not oppressed of men that be stronger, and especially of priests that should be charitable.
But blessed be the Lord Omnipotent, who supernaturally hath endued from above such weak creatures with such manly stomach and fortitude, so constantly to withstand the uttermost extremity of these pitiless persecutors: as he did before strengthen the mother of the seven sons in the Maccabees, and as he hath done since with divers and sundry other godly women in these our latter days, partly before mentioned, and partly to be mentioned hereafter, as here presently may appear by the martyrdom of seven hereunder following, of the which were four women and three men, burnt together at Canterbury the nineteenth of the said month of June, in the year aforesaid, whose names are these: John Fishcock, Nicholas White, Nicholas Pardue, Barbara Final, widow, Bradbridge's widow, Wilson's wife, Benden's wife.
As it were too tedious exactly and particularly to prosecute the several story of every one of these godly martyrs; so I cannot pass over untouched the cruel and unchristian handling of Alice Benden during her imprisonment; according as I have received by the faithful relation of them which best were acquainted with her, and partly also of some doers in the matter, being her own natural brethren. The story is thus:
"First, Alice Benden was brought before one Master Roberts, of Cranbrooke, in said county, the fourteenth day of October, in the year of our Lord 1556, of whom she was demanded why she would not go to the church. And she answered, that she could not so do with a good and clear conscience, because there was much idolatry committed against the glory of God. For the which with many mocks and taunts she was sent to prison, where she lay fourteen days; for on the twentieth day of October her husband required his neighbours, the wealthy men of Staplehurst, to write to the bishop of Dover, who had the chief government of the tyrannical sword in Kent for those days, which they did, desiring him to send her home.
"Wherefore the bishop called her before him, and asked her if. she would go home, and go to the church. Whereunto she answered, 'If I would have so done, I need not have come hither.' 'Then wilt thou go home, and be shriven of thy parish priest?' And she said, No, that would she not.
"'Well,' said he, 'go thy ways home, and go to the church when thou wilt.' Whereunto she answered nothing; but a priest that stood by, said, 'She saith, she will, my Lord.' Wherefore he let her go, and she came forthwith home.
"On the Saturday following, her husband willed her to go to the church; which she both then and elsewhen refused to do. Wherefore on the Sunday, fourteen days after, he, going to the church, came into the company of divers inhabitants of the same parish; among whom, through his fond talk and behaviour, he procured her to be sent to Sir John Guilford, who commanded her to prison again; yea, and the more to utter his own shame, he said her husband took money of the constable to carry her to prison, the price of his wife's blood, meaning indeed to carry her to prison himself. But she, having much more care of his honest and good report, than he had regard (as it is easy to see) of his own infamy, and no less ashamed of his so rude and unnatural doings, chose rather to commit herself willingly into the hands of her enemies, than that the world should witness against her husband of so facinorous a fact. Wherefore she went to the constable, desiring him to go with her. But he answered that he could not so do, but granted her his boy to go with her, with whom she went to prison, namely, the castle of Canterbury, according to the commandment given.
Where this one thing is worthy to be noted, that while she was in this prison, she practised with a prison-fellow of hers, the wife of one Potkin, to live both of them with twopence-halfpenny a day, to try thereby how well they could sustain penury and hunger, before they were put to it. For they had heard, that when they should be removed from thence to the bishop's prison, their livings should be but three farthings apiece a day, and did indeed both so live for fourteen days ere she was from thence removed.
"The twenty-second day of January following, her husband went again to the bishop, desiring him to deliver his wife out of prison; but he said she was an obstinate heretic, and would not be reformed; and therefore said that he could not deliver her.
"Then said he, 'My Lord, she hath a brother, whose name is Roger Hall, that resorteth unto her. If your Lordship could keep him from her, she would turn; for he comforteth her, giveth her money, and persuadeth her not to return or relent.'
"This occasion was not so soon given, but it was as quickly taken, and as cruelly put in execution. For the bishop commanding her upon the same to a prison, called Monday's Hole, there also he gave a strait charge, that if at any time her brother came, he should be taken and apprehended. The prison was within a court where the prebend's chambers were, being a vault beneath the ground, and being before the window enclosed with a pale, of height, by estimation, four feet and a half, and distant from the same three feet, so that she, looking from beneath, might only see such as stood at the pale. After this her brother sought often for her, with no less danger of life than diligence. But for the unknown situation of the place, it being also but rarely used for a prison, and the matter as closely kept as it was secretly done, he could never come to understand of her being there, until, through God's merciful will and unsearchable providence, he coming thither very early in the morning, her keeper being then gone to the church to ring, (for he was a bell-ringer,) chanced to hear her voice, as she poured out unto God her sorrowful complaints, saying the psalms of David. And then could he no otherwise relieve her, but by putting money in a loaf of bread, and sticking the same on a pole, and so reached it unto her; for neither with meat nor drink he could sustain her. And this was five weeks after her coming thither; all the which time no creature was known to come at her, more than her keeper.
"Her lying in that prison was only upon a little short straw between a pair of stocks and a stone wall; being allowed three farthings a day, that is, half-penny bread, and a farthing drink, neither could she get any more for her money. Wherefore she desired to have her whole allowance in bread, and used water for her drink. Thus did she lie nine weeks; during all which time she never changed her apparel, whereby she became at the last a most piteous and loathsome creature to behold.
"At her first coming into this place, she did grievously bewail with great sorrow and lamentation, and reasoned with herself, why her Lord God did with his so heavy justice suffer her to be sequestered from her loving fellows into so extreme misery.
"In these dolorous mournings did she continue, till on a night as she was in her sorrowful supplications, rehearsing this verse of the psalm, Why art thou so heavy, O my soul? and again, The right hand of the Most High can change all; she received comfort in the midst of her miseries, and after that continued very joyful until her delivery from the same.
"About the twenty-fifth day of March, in the year of our Lord 1557, she was called before the bishop, who demanded of her, whether she would now go home, and go to the church or no, promising her great favour, if she would be reformed and do as they did.
"To whom she answered, 'I am throughly persuaded by the great extremity that you have already showed me, that you are not of God, neither can your doings be godly; and I see,' saith she, that you seek my utter destruction;'-- showing how lame she then was of cold taken, and for lack of food, whilst she lay in that painful prison; whereby she was not able to move herself without great pain.
"Then did the bishop deliver her from that filthy hole and sent her to Westgate, where, after she had been changed, and for a while been clean kept, her skin did wholly so peel and scale off, as if she had been with some mortal venom poisoned. Here she continued till the latter end of April; at which time they called her before them, and with others condemned her, committing her then to the prison called the Castle; where she continued till the slaughter-day, which was the nineteenth day of June, when by terrible fire they took away her life.
"When she was at the stake, she cast her handkerchief unto one John Banks, requiring him to keep the same in memory of her, and from about her middle she took a white lace, which she gave to the keeper, desiring him to give the same to her brother Roger Hall, and to tell him that it was the last band that she was bound with, except the chain. A shilling also of Philip and Mary she took forth, which her father had bowed and sent her when she was first sent to prison, desiring that her said brother should with obedient salutations render the same to her father again, and show him that it was the first piece of money that he sent her after her troubles began, which (as she protested) she had kept, and now sent him to do him to understand, that she never lacked money while she was in prison."
With this Alice Benden were burned also the residue of the other blessed martyrs above named, being seven in number; who, being brought to the place where they should suffer for the Lord's cause at Canterbury, wadressed themselves joyfully to the fire; and being ready thereto, they all (like the communion of saints) kneeled down, and made their humble prayers unto the Lord with such zeal and affection as even the enemies of the cross of Christ could not but like it. When they had made invocation together, they rose and went to the stake, where, being compassed with horrible flames of fire, they yielded their souls and lives gloriously into the hand of the Lord; unto whose eternity the Son of God bring. us all. Amen.
Bradbridge's wife, when she was condemned of the bishop to be burned, had two children, named Patience and Charity; who then said to the bishop, that if he would needs burn her, yet she trusted, that he would take and keep Patience and Charity; meaning her two children. Nay," quoth the bishop, "by the faith of my body I will meddle with neither of them both."