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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 119. REYNOLD PECOCKE


After the death of Henry Chichesley, archbishop of Canterbury, next succeeded John Stafford, A. D. 1445,who continued eight years. After him came John Kemp, A. D. 1453, who sat but three years. Then succeeded Thomas Burschere. In the time of which archbishop, fell the trouble of Reynold Pecocke, bishop of Chichester, afflicted by the pope's prelates for his faith and profession of the gospel. Of this bishop, Hall also, in his chronology toucheth a little mention, declaring that an overthwart judgment, as he termeth it, was given by the fathers of the spiritualty against him. "This man," saith he, "began to move questions not privately, but openly in the universities, concerning the annats, Peter pence, and other jurisdictions and authorities, pertaining to the see of Rome, and not only put forth the questions, but declared his mind and opinion in the same; wherefore he was for this cause abjured at Paul's cross." Thus much of him writeth Hall. Of whom also recordeth Polychronicon, but in few words. This bishop, first of St. Asaph, then of Chichester, so long as Duke Humphrey lived, by whom he was promoted and much made of, was quiet and safe, and also bold to dispute and to write his mind, and wrote (as Leland recordeth) divers books and treatises. But after that good duke was thus (as ye have heard) made away, this good man, lacking his back-stay, was open to his enemies, and matter soon found against him. Whereupon he, being complained of, and accused by privy and malignant promoters unto the archbishop, letters first were directed down from the archbishop, to cite all men to appear that could say any thing against him. The form of which citation here ensueth:

"Thomas, by the permission of God, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and legate of the apostolic see, to all and singular, parsons, vicars, chaplains, curates and not curates, clerks, and learned men, whatsoever they be, constituted and ordained in any place throughout our province of Canterbury, health, grace, and benediction.

"We have received a grievous complaint of our reverend fellow brother, Reynold Pecocke, bishop of Chichester, containing in it, that albeit our said reverend fellow brother, the bishop, delivered unto us certain books written by him in the English tongue, by us and our authority to be examined, corrected, reformed, and allowed; notwithstanding many (the examination and reformation of the said books depending and remaining before us undiscussed) have openly preached and taught at Paul's cross in London, and in divers other places of our province of Canterbury, that our said fellow brother, the bishop, hath propounded, made, and written, or caused to be written in the said books, certain conclusions repugnant to the true faith, and that he doth obstinately hold and defend the same. By the pretence of which preaching and teaching, the state and good name and fame of the Lord Reynold, the bishop, are grievously offended and hurt, and he and his opinion marvellously burdened. Wherefore we charge you all together, and severally apart do command you, firmly enjoining you, that openly and generally you do warn, or cause to be warned, all and singular such persons, which will object any thing contrary and against the conclusions of our said reverend fellow brother, the bishop, had or contained in his books or writings; that the twentieth day after such monition or warning had, they do freely, of their own accord, appear before us and our commissaries in this behalf appointed, wheresoever we shall then be in our city, diocese, or province of Canterbury, to speak, propound, or allege, and affirm fully and sufficiently in writing, whatsoever heretical or erroneous matter they will speak, propound, or object against the said conclusions contained in his said books; and both to satisfy and receive whatsoever shall seem meet and right, in this behalf, by the holy institution and ordinances.

"And forasmuch as this matter depending yet undetermined and undiscussed, nothing ought to be attempted or renewed; we charge you, that by this, our authority, you inhibit and forbid all and every one so to preach and teach hereafter. Unto whom also we, by the tenor of these presents, do likewise forbid, that during the examination of the conclusions and books aforesaid, depending before us and our commissaries undiscussed, they do not presume by any means, without good advice and judgment, to preach, judge, and affirm any thing to the prejudice or offence of the said Lord Reynold, the bishop: and if so be you do find any in this behalf gainsaying or not obeying this our inhibition, that you do cite, or cause them peremptorily to be cited, to appear before us or our commissaries, in this behalf appointed, the tenth day after their citation, if it be a court day, or else the next court day following, wheresoever we shall then be, in our city, diocese, or province of Canterbury, to make further declaration by form of law of the cause of their disobedience, and to receive such punishment as justice and equity shall determine in their behalf; and that by your letters you do duly certify us or our commissaries, what you have done in the premises, at the day and place aforesaid; or that he which hath so executed our commandment, do so certify us by his letters. Dated at our manor of Lambeth, the twenty-second day of October, A. D. 1457, and in the fourth year of our translation."

This citation being directed, the bishop, upon the summons thereof, was brought, or rather came, before the judges and bishops unto Lambeth, where the aforesaid Thomas the archbishop, with his doctors and lawyers, were gathered together in the archbishop's court. In which convention also the duke of Buckingham was present, accompanied with the bishops of Rochester and of Lincoln. What were the opinions and articles against him objected, after in his revocation shall be specified. In his answering for himself, in such a company of the pope's friends, albeit he could not prevail; notwithstanding he, stoutly defending himself, declared many things worthy great commendation of learning, if learning against power could have prevailed.

But they on the contrary part, with all labour and travail extended themselves, either to reduce him, or else to confound him. As here lacked no blustering words of terror and threatening, so also many fair flattering words and gentle persuasions were admixed withal. Briefly, to make a short narration of a long and busy traverse, here was no stone left unturned, no ways unproved, either by fair means to entreat him, or by terrible menaces to terrify his mind, till at length he, being vanquished and overcome by the bishops, began to faint, and gave over. Whereupon, by and by a recantation was put unto him by the bishops, which he should declare before the people. The copy of which his recantation here followeth.

{Ornamental Capital 114a}IN the name of God, Amen. Before you the most reverend father in Christ and lord, the Lord Thomas, by the grace of God archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and legate of the apostolic see, I, Reynold Pecocke, unworthy bishop of Chichester, do purely, willingly, simply, and absolutely confess and acknowledge, that I in times past, that is to say, by the space of these twenty years last past and more, have otherwise conceived, holden, taught, and written, as touching the sacraments, and the articles of the faith, than the holy Church of Rome, and universal church; and also that I have made, written, published, and set forth many and divers pernicious doctrines, hooks, works, writings, heresies, contrary and against the true catholic and apostolic faith, containing in them errors contrary to the catholic faith, and especially these errors and heresies hereunder written.

"1. First of all, That we are not bound, by the necessity of faith, to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ after his death descended into hell.

"2. Item, That it is not necessary to salvation to believe in the holy catholic church.

"3. Item, That it is not necessary to salvation to believe the communion of saints.

"4. Item, That it is not necessary to salvation to affirm the body material in the sacrament.

"5. Item, That the universal church may err in matters which pertain unto faith.

"6. Item, That it is not necessary unto salvation to believe that that which every general council doth universally ordain, approve, or determine, should necessarily, for the help of our faith and the salvation of souls, be approved and holden of all faithful Christians.

"Wherefore, I, Reynold Pecocke, wretched sinner, which have long walked in darkness, and now, by the merciful disposition and ordinance of God, am reduced and brought again unto the light and way of truth, and restored unto the unity of our holy mother the church, renounce and forsake all errors and heresies aforesaid."

Notwithstanding, godly reader, it is not to be believed that Pecocke did so give over these opinions, howsoever the words of the recantation pretend. For it is a policy and play of the bishops, that when they do subdue or overcome any man, they carry him whither their list, as it were a young steer by the nose, and frame out his words for him beforehand, as it were for a parrot, that he should speak unto the people, not according to his own will, but after their lust and fantasy. Neither is it to be doubted but that this bishop repented him afterward of his recantation; which may easily be judged hereby, because he was committed again to prison, and detained captive, where it is uncertain whether he was oppressed with privy and secret tyranny, and there obtained the crown of martyrdom, or no.

The dictionary of Thomas Gascoigne I have not in my hands at present. But if credit be to be given to such as have to us alleged the book, this we may find in the eighth century of John Bale, chap. xix., that the said Thomas Gascoigne, in his third part of his dictionary, writing of Reynold Pecocke, maketh declaration of his articles containing in them matters of sore heresy. "First," saith he, "Reynold Pecocke at Paul's Cross preached openly, that the office of a Christian prelate, chiefly above all other things, is to preach the word of God. That man's reason is not to be preferred before the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. That the use of the sacraments, as they be now handled, is worse than the use of the law of nature. That bishops which buy their admissions of the bishop of Rome, do sin. That no man is bound to believe and obey the determination of the Church of Rome. Also, that the riches of bishops by inheritance, are the goods of the poor. Item, that the apostles themselves personally were not the makers of the Creed; and that in the same Creed once was not the article, he went down to hell. Item, that the four senses of the Scripture none is to be taken, but the very first and proper sense. Also, that he gave little estimation, in some points, to the authority of the old doctors. Item, that he condemned the wilful begging of the friars, as a thing idle and needless." This out of Thomas Gascoigne. Leland also, adding this moreover, saith, that he, not contented to follow the catholic sentence of the church, in interpreting of the Scripture, did not think soundly (as he judged it) of the holy eucharist.

At length, for these and such other articles, the said Reynold Pecocke was condemned for a heretic, by the archbishops and bishops of Roffe, Lincoln, and Winchester, with other divines more. Whereupon he, being driven to his recantation, was, notwithstanding, detained still in prison. Where, some say, that he was privily made away by death.

Hall addeth, "that some say his opinions to be, that spiritual persons by God's law ought to have no temporal possessions." Other write, that he said that personal tithes were not due by God's law. But whatsoever the cause was, he was caused at Paul's Cross to abjure, and all his books burnt, and he himself kept in his own house during his natural life. I marvel that Polydore, of this extremity of the bishop's handling, and of his articles, in his history maketh no memorial. Belike it made but little for the honesty of his great master the pope.

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