383. THOMAS BENBRIDGE, GENTLEMAN AND MARTYR
Thomas Benbridge, a gentleman, single and unmarried, in the diocese of Winchester, although he might have lived a pleasant and a gentleman's life in the wealthy possessions of this world, yet to follow Christ had rather enter into the strait gate of persecution, to the heavenly possession of life in the Lord's kingdom, than here to enjoy pleasures present, with unquietness of conscience. Wherefore manfully standing against the papists for the defence of the sincere doctrine of Christ's gospel, he spared not himself to confirm the doctrine of the gospel. For the which cause he being apprehended for an adversary of the Romish religion, was forthwith had to examination before Dr. White, bishop of Winchester, where he sustained sundry conflicts for the truth, against the said bishop and his colleagues. The articles of the bishop ministered to him, with his answers to the same annexed, be here following.
"First, We articulate against you, that the church of God ministereth rightly, according to the rite apostolical."
To this he answered, that baptism is not administered at this present, so as it was in the apostles' time, for that it is not ministered in the English tongue.
"2. Item, We articulate that the church of God doth believe and hold, that in the sacrament of thanksgiving, after the words of consecration pronounced of the priest, the true and natural body of Christ is present really."
He answered, that he believeth not that in the sacrament is contained the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, saying, "This is the mark that ye shoot at."
"3. Item, We articulate that the church holdeth and believeth, that confirmation is a sacrament in the church, and that by imposition of hands of a bishop cometh grace."
He answered, that he knoweth not whether that confirmation be a sacrament or not, and whether the bishop giveth grace or not; he knoweth not the order and fashion of ministration.
"4. Item, We articulate that penance is a sacrament in the church, and that by auricular confession and absolution, pronounced by the priest, sins be forgiven."
He answered negatively, denying sins to be forgiven by absolution pronounced of a priest; and that it is not necessary for a man to recite all his sins to a priest.
5. "Item, We articulate against thee, that the church doth believe and hold the same authority to be now in the church, which Christ gave to his apostles."
He answered negatively, for that the church hath not the same power and strength to work.
"6. Item, we articulate that the church believeth and holdeth, that the order of ministers, now being in the church of Christ, is instituted of Christ himself."
He answered, he believed not the bishops to be the successors of the apostles, for that they be not called as they were, nor have that grace.
"7. Item, We articulate that the church believeth and holdeth the pope to be supreme head in the church, and the vicar of Christ in earth."
He answered, that it is not the pope, but it is the devil, that is supreme head of the church which you speak of.
"8. Item, We articulate that the church doth hold and believe that it is necessary to be baptized." He denied not the same.
"9. Item, We articulate that the church doth hold and believe that there is purgatory, and that the souls of the dead be relieved with the alms and prayers of the living."
He answered and saith, as touching purgatory, he will not believe as their church doth believe.
"10. Item, We articulate that the church holdeth and believeth that matrimony is a sacrament of the church."
He answered, that he will not say that matrimony is a sacrament, but to be a sacred order and sign of a holy thing, &c.
Moreover, happening into the mention of Martin Luther, he said, that the said Martin Luther died a good Christian man, whose doctrine and life he did approve and allow.
Thus have ye the articles ministered by the bishop, and also the answers of the said Master Benbridge unto the same, for the which he was then condemned, and after brought to the place of martyrdom by the sheriff, called Sir Richard Pecksal; where he, standing at the stake, began to untie his points, and to prepare himself. Then he gave his gown to the keeper, being belike his fee. His jerkin was laid on with gold lace, fair and brave, which he gave to Sir Richard Pecksal the high sheriff. His cap of velvet he took off from his head, and threw it away. Then lifting his mind to the Lord, he made his prayers.
That done, being now fastened to the stake, Dr. Seaton willed him to recant, and he should have his pardon. But when he saw it prevailed not to speak, the said dreaming and doltish doctor willed the people not to pray for him unless he would recant, no more than they would pray for a dog.
Master Benbridge, standing at the stake with his hands together in such manner as the priest holdeth his hands in his memento, the said Dr. Seaton came to him again, and exhorted him to recant: unto whom he said, "Away, Babylonian, away!"
Then said one that stood by, "Sir, cut out his tongue;" and another, being a temporal man, railed on him worse than Dr. Seaton did a great deal, who, as is thought, was set on by some other.
Then when they saw he would not yield, they bade the tormentors to set to fire; and yet he was nothing like covered with faggots. First, the fire took away a piece of his beard, whereat he nothing shrank at all. Then it came on the other side, and took his legs; and the nether stockings of his hose being leather, made the fire to pierce the sharper, so that the intolerable heat thereof made him to cry, "I recant." And suddenly therewith he thrust the fire from him; and having two or three of his friends by, that wished his life, they stept to the fire, and helped to take it from him also; who for their labour were sent to prison. The sheriff also of his own authority took him from the stake, and sent him to prison again, for the which he was sent unto the Fleet, and there lay a certain time. But before he was taken from the stake, the said Seaton wrote articles to have him to subscribe unto them, as touching the pope, the sacrament, and such other trash. But the said Master Benbridge made much ado ere he could subscribe them, insomuch that Dr. Seaton willed them to set to fire again. Then with much pain and grief of heart he subscribed to them upon a man's back. That being done, he had his gown given him again, and so was led to prison. Being in prison he wrote a letter to Dr. Seaton, and recanted those words he spake at the stake, unto which he had subscribed; for he was grieved that ever he did subscribe unto them. Whereupon expressing his conscience, he was, the same day seven-night after, burnt indeed, where the vile tormentors did rather broil him than burn him. The Lord give his enemies repentance!