367. AGNES BONGEOR, MARGARET THURSTON AND JOHN KURDE
Agnes Bongeor and Margaret Thurston, two godly Christian women, burnt at Colchester for the sincere profession of Christ's gospel.little before, gentle reader, was mention made of ten, that suffered martyrdom at Colchester; at which time there were two other women also, one called Margaret Thurston, and the other Agnes Bongeor, that should have suffered with them, and were likewise condemned at the same time and place that the other above-named ten were, for the like cause, and answered also in their examinations the like in effect as the others did. But the one, namely Margaret Thurston, that morning she should suffer with those that went from the castle, was for that time deferred. What the cause was, the testimony of Joan Cook shall declare unto us; which Joan Cook, the wife now of John Spark, being then in the castle of Colchester for religion, did demand of this widow Thurston, whose husband died in the prison, being imprisoned for religion, wherefore the said Margaret, being a condemned woman, should be reserved when the others suffered in the castle-baily: she answered, that it was not for any fear of death, but being prepared as the rest were that suffered the same day, she felt in herself a great shivering and trembling of the flesh; whereupon, forsaking the company, she went aside to pray. And whilst she was a praying, she thought that she was lifted up with a mighty wind, that came round about her. Even at that instant came in the gaoler and company with him, and whilst she turned herself to fetch her Psalter, they took the other prisoners, and left her alone. Shortly after she was removed out of the castle, and put into the town-prison, where she continued until Friday sevennight after her company were burnt. That day, not two hours before her death, she was brought to the castle again, where she declared thus much to the foresaid Joan Cook.
The other, named Agnes Bongeor, who should have snffered in like manner with the six that went out of Mote hall, was also kept back at that time, but not in like sort, because her name was wrong written within the writ, as in the bailiff's letter of Colchester, sent to Bonner abont the same, more plainly doth appear, the tenor whereof hereafter follow eth.
"After our humble commendations unto you, right reverend father, accordingly considered, these are to certify your honourable Lordship, that upon Friday the thirtieth of July last past, in the afternoon of the same day, we received by the hands of Edward Cosin, your Lordship's servant, your loving letters, and also the king's and queen's Majesties' writ de hæreticis comburendis, for the real burning of certain persons, convicted and condemned of heresy, then remaining in our custody: which to have executed the next day immediately following, we then purposed and much desired; but could not well and conveniently then do, not only for want of necessary provision then immediately to be had, but also by reason of other occasions and impediments. Whereupon we ordered the execution thereof to be done this present Monday, the second of August; at which time we, by virtue of the writ, have, according to the tenor and purport thereof, really burned six persons of those which are named in tbe said writ: that is to say, William Bongeor, Robert Purcase, Thomas Benold, Agnes Silverside, alias Smith, widow; Ellen Ewring, the wife of Thomas Ewring; and Elizabeth Folkes.
"And as touching the seventh person named in the said writ, by the name of Agnes Bower, the wife of Richard Bower, for that we have no such person of that name, nor known nor called by that name, in our custody, neither any of that name or so known or called hath been before us presented or indicted, we could not therefore, by virtue of the writ, proceed unto the real burning of any other person than those six, who were rightly named in the said writ. Howbeit for that we have also a seventh person convicted and condemned of heresy, yet remaining in our custody, called and known by the name of Agnes Bongeor, the wife of Richard Bongeor; who was indicted and convicted of heresy with the other six before named, and for that the same writ, so misnaming her by another name than she hath ever heretofore been called or known [by], is no sufficient warrant in law for us to proceed unto the real burning of her, we have thought it good, therefore, to stay the execution and real burning of her, and thought it good also to certify your honourable Lordship thereof. Wherefore, if it may please your good Lordship to signify the same her name unto the right reverend father in God, the lord chancellor of England, and further to send unto ns another writ of the king's and queen's Majesties, for our warrant to burn really the same Agnes Bongeor, the wife of Richard Bongeor; and by that name, we shall forthwith, and with like diligence, execute the same; as we have already done upon those six persons before named. Thus we commend your Lordship to Almighty God, who preserve your honourable estate, in much honour long to continue!-- From Colchester, the said third day of August, 1557.
"Your Lordship's assured at command,
The same morning, the second of Angust, that the said six in Mote hall were called out to go to their martyrdom, was Agnes Bongeor also called with them, by the name of Agnes Bower. Wherefore the bailiffs, understanding her (as I said) to be wrong named within the writ, commanded the said Agnes Bongeor to prison again, as ye have heard in the letter before named; and so from Mote hall that day sent her to the castle, where she remained until her death.
But when she saw herself so separated from her said prison-fellows in that sort, O good Lord! what piteous moan that good woman made, how bitterly she wept, what strange thoughts came into her mind, how naked and desolate she esteemed herself, and into what plunge of despair and care her poor soul was brought, it was piteous and wonderful to see; which all came because she went not with them to give her life in the defence of her Christ; for of all things in the world, life was least looked for at her hands. For that morning in which she was kept back from burning, had she put on a smock, that she had prepared only for that purpose. And also having a child, a little young infant sucking on her, whom she kept with her tenderly all the time that she was in prison, against that day likewise did she send away to another nurse, and prepared herself presently to give herself for the testimony of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. So little did she look for life, and so greatly did God's gifts work in her above nature, that death seemed a great deal better welcome than life. But this took not effect at that time, as she thought it would; and therefore (as I said) was she not a little troubled.
Being in this great perplexity of mind, a friend of hers came to her, and required to know whether Abraham's obedience was accepted before God, for that he did sacrifice his son Isaac, or in that he would have offered him? Unto which she answered thus "I know," quoth she, "that Abraham's will before God was allowed for the deed, in that he would have done it, if the angel of the Lord had not stayed him: but I," said she, "am unhappy, the Lord think eth me not worthy of this dignity: and therefore Abraham's case and mine are not alike."
"Why," quoth her friend, "would ye not willingly have gone with your company, if God should so have suffered it?" "Yes," said she, "with all my heart; and because I did not, it is now my chief and greatest grief."
Then said her friend, "My dear sister, I pray thee consider Abraham and thyself well, and thou shalt see thou dost nothing differ with him in will at all." "Alas," quoth she, "there is a far greater matter in Abraham than in me; for Abraham was tried with the offering of his own child, but so am not I: and therefore our cases are not alike."
"Good sister," quoth her friend, "weigh the matter but indifferently. Abraham, I grant," said he, "would have offered his son: and have not you done the like, in your little sucking babe? But consider further than this, my good sister," said he, "whereas Abraham was commanded but to offer his son, you are heavy and grieved because you offer not yourself, which goeth somewhat more near you, than Abraham's obedience did; and therefore before God, assuredly, is no less accepted and allowed in his holy presence: which further the preparing of your shroud also, doth argue full well," &c.
After which talk between them, she began a little to stay herself, and gave her whole exercise to reading and prayer, wherein she found no little comfort.
In the time that these foresaid two good women were prisoners, one in the castle, and the other in Mote hall, God by a secret mean called the said Margaret Thurston unto his truth again; who, having her eyes opened by the working of his Spirit, did greatly sorrow and lament her backsliding before, and promised faithfully to the Lord, in hope of his mercies, never more while she lived to do the like again, but that she would constantly stand to the confession of the same, against all the adversaries of the cross of Christ. After which promise made, came in a short time a writ from London for the burning of them, which according to the effect thereof was executed the seventeenth day of September, in the year aforesaid.
Now, when these foresaid good women were brought to the place in Colchester where they should suffer, the seventeenth day of September in the year aforesaid, they fell down upon both their knees, and made their humble prayers unto the Lord: which thing being done, they rose and went to the stake joyfully, and were immediately thereto chained; and after the fire had compassed them about, they with great joy and glorious trinmph gave up their souls, spirits, and lives, into the hands of the Lord, under whose government and protection, for Christ's sake, we beseech him to grant us his holy defence and help for evermore, Amen!
Thus, gentle reader! God chooseth the weak things of the world, to confound mighty things.
John Kurde, martyr.
In the story before, was something touched of a certain shoemaker suffering at Northampton, being unnamed, whom because we understand by a letter sent from the said parties, that he suffered in this year 1557, and in the month of September, therefore we thought there to place him. His name was John Kurde, a shoemaker, late of the parish of Syresham, in Northamptonshire, who was imprisoned in Northampton castle for denying the popish transubstantiation, for the which cause William Binsley, bachelor of law, and chancellor unto the bishop of Peterborough, and now archdeacon of Northampton, did pronounce sentence of death against the said Kurde, in the church of All Saints in Northampton, in August, anno 1557. And in September following, at the commandment of Sir Thomas Tresham, sheriff then of the shire, he was led by his officers without the north gate of Northampton, and in the stone pits was burnt. A popish priest standing by, whose name was John Rote, vicar of St. Giles's, in Northampton, did declare unto him, that if he would recant, he was authorized to give him his pardon. His answer was, that he had his pardon by Jesus Christ, &c.