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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 126 THE WORD OF GOD SPREAD BY PRINTING


Here now it began right well to appear, what great benefit was broached to the world, by the art and facility of printing, as is before mentioned. Through the means of which printing, the church and commonwealth of Christ began now to be replenished with learned men, as both may appear by this emperor, being so endued himself with such excellent knowledge of good letters, and also by divers other famous and worthy wits, which began now in this age exceedingly to increase and multiply; as Baptista Mantuanus, Ang. Politianus, Hermolaus Barbarus, Picus Mirandula, and Franciscus his cousin, Rodol. Agricola, Pontanus, Philippus, Beroaldus, Marsilius Ficinus, Volateranus, Georgius Valla, with infinite other.

Among whom is also to be numbered Weselus Groningensis, otherwise named Basilius, who was not long after Johannes de Wesalia, above recited, both much about one time, and both great friends together. This Weselus died in the year of our Lord 1490. After that Johannes, Doctor de Wesalia, aforesaid, was condemned, this Weselus being familiar with him, thought that the inquisitor would come and examine him also, as he himself in a certain epistle doth write. He was so notable and worthy a man, that of the people he was called Lux Mundi, that is, The light of the world.

Concerning his doctrine, first he reprehended the opinion of the papists, as touching repentance, which they divided into three parts, of the which three parts, satisfaction and confession he did disallow; likewise purgatory and supererogation of works and pardons he did disprove, both at Rome and at Paris. He spake against the pope's indulgences, by the occasion whereof divers of the pope's court, persuaded by him, began to speak more freely against the same matter than he himself had done.

The abuses of masses and praying for the dead he disallowed; and likewise the supremacy of the pope he utterly rejected, as appeareth in a book of his, De Sacramento Púnitentiæ, denying utterly that any supreme head or governor ought to be in the world over all other; affirming also and saying many times, that the pope had no authority to do any thing by commandment, but by truth, that is, so far as truth goeth with him, so far his sentence to stand; neither that he ought to prevail by commanding, but only by teaching, so as every true Christian bishop may prevail over another. Also in some place in his writings he denieth not, but that popes and their spiritual prelates, proceeding against Christ's doctrine, be plain antichrists. Such as were infirm, and not able to perform the bond of chastity taken upon them, he said they might well. break their vow.

Also the said Weselus witnesseth that the forefathers which were before Albert and Thomas, did resist and withstand the pope's indulgences, calling them in their writings plain idolatry, mere fraud and error; adding moreover, that unless the severity of some good divines had withstood these pardons and indulgences of the pope, innumerable errors had overflown the church.

Amongst these works of Weselus, there is a certain Epistle of one written to him, in which the author of the Epistle confesseth, that in his time there was a certain learned man at Paris, called Master Thomas de Curselis, a dean; who being in the council of Basil, where divers began to advance the pope too far, declared and affirmed, to be said to him of Christ, Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven, but not, Whatsoever thou sayest to be bound; as who should say the pope cannot nor doth not bind therefore, because he so saith, except truth and righteousness go also with him, then he doth so bind indeed. There is a certain book of this man amongst divers others, which he entitled, De Subditis et Superioribus, in the which he disputeth greatly against the pope and his prelates; affirming, that the pope, unless his faith and doctrine be sound, ought not to be obeyed. He affirmeth also that the pope may err, and when he erreth, men ought by all manner of means to resist him. Item, That great and superfluous riches in the clergy do not profit, but hurt the church. That the pope doth wickedly distribute the rents of the church, and the church itself, to unworthy ministers by simony, for his own profit and gain, whereby it may appear that he neither careth for God nor the health of the church. Item, That the precepts and commandments of the pope and prelates be no otherwise but as the counsels and precepts of physicians, binding no further than they are found to be wholesome and standing with the truth of the word. Item, That the pope can command no man under pain of deadly sin, except God command him before. He saith, that the keys of the pope and of the prelates be not such wherewith they open the kingdom of heaven, but rather shut it, as the Pharisees did. Concerning vows, he disputeth that such as be foolish and impossible ought to be broken; that the hearers ought to discern and judge of the doctrine of their prelates, and not to receive every thing that they say, without due examination.

He showeth moreover, that the sentence of excommunication is of more force, proceeding from a true godly, honest, simple, and learned man, than from the pope; as in the council of Constance, Bernard was more esteemed than Eugenius. Also if the pope with his prelates govern and rule naughtily, that the inferiors, be they never so base, ought to resist him.

Writing moreover of two popes, Pius the Second and Sixtus the Fourth, he saith, that Pius the Second did usurp unto himself all the kingdoms of the whole world, and that Sixtus the pope did dispense with all manner of oaths in causes temporal, not only with such oaths as have been already, but also with all such as shall be made hereafter; which was nothing else but to give liberty and licence for men to forswear themselves and deceive one another.

This Weselus being a Phrygian born, and now aged in years, upon a certain time when a young man, called Master Johannes Ostendorpius, came to him, said these words, "Well my child, thou shalt live to that day, when thou shalt see that the doctrine of these new and contentious divines, as Thomas and Bonaventure, with others of the same sort, shall be utterly rejected and exploded from all true Christian divines." And this which Ostendorpius, then being young, heard Weselus to speak, he reported himself to Noviomagus, which wrote this story, A. D. 1520, and heard it of the mouth of the said Weselus, A. D. 1490, March 18.

Philip Melancthon, writing of the life of Rodulphus Agricola, saith, that Josquinus Groningensis, an ancient and a godly man, reported, that when he was young he was oftentimes present at the sermons of Rodulphus and Weselus, wherein they many times lamented the darkness of the church, and reprehended the abuses of the mass, and of the single life of priests. Item, That they disputed oftentimes of the righteousness of faith, why St. Paul so oftentimes did inculcate, that men be justified by faith and not works. The same Josquinus also reported, that they did openly reject and disprove the opinion of monks, which say, that men be justified by their works. Item, Concerning men's traditions their opinion was, that all such were deceived, whosoever attributed unto those traditions any opinion of God's worship, or that they might not be broken. And thus much for the story of Doctor Wesalia and Weselus.

By this it may be seen and noted, how, by the grace of God and gift of printing, first came forth learning; by learning came light to judge and discern the errors of the pope from the truth of God's word; as partly by these abovesaid may appear, partly by other that follow after, (by the grace of Christ,) shall better be seen.

About the very same time and season, when the gospel began thus to branch and spring in Germany, the host of Christ's church began also to muster and to multiply likewise here in England, as by these histories here consequent may appear. For not long after the death of this Weselus, in the year of our Lord 1494, and in the ninth year of the reign of Henry the Seventh, the 28th of April, was burned a very old woman named Joan Boughton, widow, and mother to the Lady Young, which lady was also suspected to be of that opinion which her mother was. Her mother was of fourscore years of age or more, and held eight of Wickliff's opinions, (which opinions my author doth not show,) for the which she was burnt in Smithfield the day above-said. My author saith, she was a disciple of Wickliff, whom she accounted for a saint, and held so fast and firmly eight of his ten opinions, that all the doctors of London could not turn her from one of them; and when it was told her that she should be burnt for her obstinacy and false belief, she set nothing by their menacing words, but defied them; for she said she was so beloved of God, and his holy angels, that she cared not for the fire, and in the midst thereof she cried to God to take her soul into his holy hands. The night following that she was burnt, the most part of her ashes were had away of such as had a love unto the doctrine that she died for.

Shortly after the martyrdom of this godly aged mother, in the year of our Lord 1497, and the seventeenth of January, being Sunday, two men, the one called Richard Milderale, and the other James Sturdie, bare faggots before the procession of Paul's, and after stood before the preacher in the time of his sermon. And upon the Sunday following stood other two men at Paul's Cross all the sermon-time; the one garnished with painted and written papers, the other having a faggot on his neck. After that in Lent season upon Passion Sunday, one Hugh Glover bare a faggot before the procession of Paul's, and after with the faggot stood before the preacher all the sermon-while at Paul's Cross. And on the Sunday next following four men stood, and did their open penance at Paul's, as is aforesaid, in the sermon-time, and many of their books were burnt before them at the Cross.

Furthermore, the next year following, which was the year of our Lord 1498, in the beginning of May, the king then being at Canterbury, was a priest burnt, which was so strong in his opinion that all the clerks and doctors then there being could not remove him from his faith; whereof the king being informed, he caused the said priest to he brought before his presence, who by his persuasion caused him to revoke, and so he was burnt immediately. In the same year above mentioned, which was the year of our Lord 1498, after the beheading of Edward Plantagenet, earl of 'Warwick, and son to the duke of Clarence, the king and queen being removed to Calais, a certain godly man and a constant martyr of Christ, named Babram, in Norfolk, was burnt in the month of July, as is in Fabian recorded, after the copy which I have written. Albeit in the book of Fabian printed, his burning is referred to the next year following, which is A. D. 1500.

About which year likewise, or in the year next following, the twentieth day of July, was an old man burnt in Smithfield.

Illustration -- A Town Square

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