402. ALEXANDER WIMSHURST, MINISTER.
A like example of God Almighty's goodness towards his afflicted servants in that dangerous time of persecution, may also appear evidently in one Alexander Wimshurst, a priest sometime of Magdalene College, in Oxford, and then the pope's own knight, but since an earnest enemy to antichrist, and a man better instructed in the true fear of God. It happened that one had promoted him to Bonner for religion, upon what occasion I do not understand. According to the old manner in such cases provided, he sent forth Robin Caly, otherwise called Robin Papist, one of his whelps, to bring in the game, and to cause this silly poor man to appear before him. Little Robin, like a proper man, bestirreth him in his business, and smelleth him out; and when he had gotten him, bringeth him along by Cheapside, not suffering him to talk with any of his acquaintance by the way, though there were of his old friends of Oxford that offered to speak unto him.
When they came into Paul's, it happened this Alexander to espy Dr. Chedsey, there walking up and down; to whom, because he was able in such a case to do pleasure, and for that he had been of his old acquaintance in Oxford, he was very desirous to speak to him ere he went through. Chedsey, perceiving that Robin Caly did attend upon him, said that he durst not meddle in the matter. "Yes," saith little Robin, "you may talk with him if it please you, Master Doctor! "To be short, Alexander openeth his case, and in the end desireth, for old acquaintance' sake, that he would find means he might be rather brought before Dr. Martin to be examined, than any other. "Nay," saith he, (alleging the words of Christ unto Peter in the last chapter of St. John,) "you remember, brother, what is written in the gospel: When thou wast young, thou didst gird thyself, and wentest whither thou wouldest: but being aged, other men shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldest not." Thus abusing the Scripture to his private meaning, whereas notwithstanding he might easily have accomplished so small a request, if it had liked him.
Thence was he carried to Story and Cook, commissioners, there to learn what should become of him: before them he did use himself boldly and stoutly, as they on the other side did urge him with captious questions very cruelly. When they had baited the poor man their fill, they asked him where his whore was. "She is not my whore," said he, "but my lawful wife." "She is thy whore," said they. "She is not my whore," said he again, "but my wife, I tell you." So when they perceived that he would not give place unto them, nor attribute to them so much as they looked for at his hand, according to the ordinary manner, they commanded him to prison.
And now mark well the providence of God in his preservation. He was brought into Cluney's house at Paternoster Row, thence to be carried to Lollards' Tower out of hand, but that Cluney, (as it happened,) his wife, and his maid, were so earnestly occupied about present business, that as then they had not leisure to lock up their prisoner. In the hall where Alexander sat, was a strange woman, whose husband was then presently in trouble for religion, which perceived by some one occasion or other, that this man was brought in for the like cause. "Alack, good man," saith she, "if you will, you may escape the cruel hands of your enemies, forasmuch as they be all away, that should look unto you. God hath opened the way unto you for a deliverance, and therefore lose not the opportunity thereof, if you be wise." With those and such-like words being then persuaded, he gat out of the doors, and went away without any haste-making at all; so that if any had followed, be might have been easily recovered again. But undoubtedly it was God's will that he should so escape the fury of his adversaries, and be preserved from all dangers of death and imprisonment.