389. THE LAST MARTYRS
The martyrdom of five constant Christians, which suffered the last of all others in the time of Queen Mary.
The last that suffered in Queen Mary's time, were five at Canterbury, burnt about six days before the death of Queen Mary, whose names follow hereunder written: John Corneford, of Wrotham; Christopher Brown, of Maidstone; John Herst, of Ashford; Alice Snoth; and Katharine Knight, otherwise called Katharine Tynley, an aged woman.
These five, (to close up the final rage of Queen Mary's persecution,) for the testimony of that word, for which so many had died before, gave up their lives meekly and patiently, suffering the violent malice of the papists: which papists, although they then might have either well spared them, or else deferred their death, knowing of the sickness of Queen Mary; yet such was the implacable despite of that generation, that some there be that say, the archdeacon of Canterbury the same time being at London, and understanding the danger of the queen, incontinently made all post-haste home to despatch these, whom, before then, he had in his cruel custody.
The matter why they were judged to the fire, was this:--
"For believing the body not to be in the sacrament of the altar, unless it be received; saying moreover, that we receive another thing also besides Christ's body, which we see, and is a temporal thing, according to St. Paul, The things that be seen, be temporal, &c.
"Item, For confessing that an evil man doth not receive Christ's body, Because no man hath the Son, except it be given him of the Father.
"Item, That it is idolatry to creep to the cross; and St. John forbidding it, saith, Beware of images.
"Item, For confessing that we should not pray to our Lady, and other saints, because they be not omnipotent."
For these and other such articles of Christian doctrine, were these five committed to the fire. Against whom when the sentence should be read, and they excommunicate, after the manner of the papists, one of them, John Corneford by name, stirred with a vehement spirit of the zeal of God, proceeding in a more true excommunication against the papists, in the name of them all, pronounced sentence against them, in these words as follow:
"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the most mighty God, and by the power of his Holy Spirit, and the authority of his holy catholic and apostolic church, we do here give into the hands of Satan to be destroyed, the bodies of all those blasphemers and heretics, that do maintain any error against his most holy word, or do condemn his most holy truth for heresy, to the maintenance of any false church or feigned religion; so that by this thy just judgment, O most mighty God, against thy adversaries, thy true religion may be known to thy great glory and our comfort, and to the edifying of all our nation. Good Lord, so be it. Amen."
This sentence of excommunication, being the same time openly pronounced and registered, proceeding so, as it seemeth, from an inward faith and hearty zeal to God's truth and religion, took such effect against the enemy, that within six days after Queen Mary died, and the tyranny of all English papists with her. Albeit, notwithstanding the sickness and death of that queen, whereof they were not ignorant; yet the archdeacon, with others of Canterbury, thought to despatch the martyrdom of these men before. In the which fact, the tyranny of this archdeacon seemeth to exceed the cruelty of Bonner; who, notwithstanding he had certain the same time under his custody, yet he was not so importune in haling them to the fire, as appeareth by father Living and his wife, and divers others, who, being the same time under the custody and danger of Bonner, were delivered by the death of Queen Mary, and remain yet some of them alive.
These godly martyrs, in their prayers which they made before their martyrdom, desired God that their blood might be the last that should be shed, and so it was.
This Katharine Tynley was the mother of one Robert Tynley, now dwelling in Maidstone, which Robert was in trouble all Queen Mary's time; to whom his mother, coming to visit him, asked him how he took this place of Scripture which she had seen, not by reading of the Scripture, (for she had yet in manner no taste of religion,) but had found it by chance in a book of prayers: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants, and upon the maids, in those days, will I pour my Spirit, &c.: which place after that he had expounded to her, she began to take hold on the gospel, growing more and more in zeal and love thereof; and so continued unto her martyrdom.
Among such young women as were burnt at Canterbury, it is recorded of a certain maid, and supposed to be this Alice Snoth here in this story mentioned, or else to be Agnes Snoth above storied, (for they were both burnt,) that when she was brought to be executed, she being at the stake, called for her godfather and godmothers. The justice, hearing her, sent for them, but they durst not come. Notwithstanding the justices willed the messenger to go again, and to show them that they should incur no danger thereof.
Then they, hearing that, came to know the matter of their sending for. When the maid saw them, she asked them what they had promised for her; and so she immediately rehearsed her faith, and the commandments of God; and required of them, if there were any more that they had promised in her behalf, and they said, No.
"Then," said she, "I die a Christian woman, bear witness of me." And so cruelly in fire was she consumed, and gave joyfully her life up for the testimony of Christ's gospel, to the terror of the wicked, and comfort of the godly; and also to the stopping of the slanderous mouths of such as falsely do quarrel against the faithful martyrs, for going from that religion wherein by their godfathers and godmothers they were first baptized.