Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 409. THE CONGREGATION AT STOKE, IN SUFFOLK.

409. THE CONGREGATION AT STOKE, IN SUFFOLK.

            There were some likewise which avoided the violent rage of the adversaries by means only of their number, and mutual concord in godliness, wherein they did so hold together, that without much ado, none well could be troubled: whereof we have example in a certain town of Suffolk called Stoke. After the three sharp years of Queen Mary's persecution being past, yet, notwithstanding, the inhabitants of the town aforesaid, especially the women, came not to their church to receive, after the popish manner, the sacrament; who, if they had been but few, they could by no means have escaped imprisonment, but because there were so many, the papists thought it best not to lay hands upon them: only they appointed them sixteen days' respite after Easter, wherein as many as would, should receive the sacrament; those that would not, should stand to the peril that would follow. Of this company, which were many, giving their hands together, the chiefest doers were these: Eve, an old woman of sixty years; Alice Coker, her daughter; Elizabeth Foxe, Agnes Cutting, Alice Spencer, Henry Cauker, Joan Fouke, Agnes Spaulding, John Steyre and his brother, and John Foxe, confessors.

            These, after the order was taken for their not coming to the church, took advisement among themselves what was best to be done, and at length concluded by promise one to another, that they would not receive at all. Yet some of them afterward, being persuaded with fair promises that the communion should be ministered unto them according to King Edward's book, gat them unto the parish priest, (whose name was Cotes,) and asked him after which sort he would minister the sacrament. He answered to such as he favoured, that he would give it after the right sort; the rest should have it after the papistical order.

            To be short, none did communicate so, but only John Steyre and John Foxe; of whom the one gave his wife leave to do as she thought best, the other went about with threats to compel his wife, saying, that otherwise he would divorce himself from her. As for the rest, they did withdraw themselves from church, resorting to their wonted company. Only Foxe's wife tarried still at home, all in her dumps and heaviness, whose husband practised with the curate in the mean time, that, the next day after, he should give her the sacrament, which was the seventeenth day after Easter. But the very same day, unknown unto her husband, she gat herself secretly to her company, and with tears declared how violently her husband had dealt with her. The other women bade her notwithstanding to be of a good cheer, and said, that they would make their earnest prayers unto the Lord, both for her and her husband. And indeed, when they had so done, the matter took very good success; for the next day after, goodman Foxe came of his own accord unto them, a far other man than he was before, and bewailed his own headiness and rashness, praying them that they would forgive him, promising ever after to be more strong in faith, to the great rejoicing both of them and his wife.

            About half a year after this, the bishop of Norwich sendeth forth certain of his officers or apparitors thither, which gave them warning every one to come to the church the next Sunday following. If they would not come, they should appear before the commissary out of hand, to render account of their absence. But the women, having secret knowledge of this before, kept themselves out of the way for the nonce, to avoid the summons or warning. Therefore, when they were not at the church at the day appointed, the commissary did first suspend them, according to the bishop of Rome's law, and within three weeks after, did excommunicate them. Therefore, when they perceived that an officer of the town was set to take some of them, they, conveying themselves privily out of the town, escaped all danger.

 

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