135. PERSECUTION IN ENGLAND, 1500-1509
In this long digression, wherein sufficiently hath been described the grievous and tedious persecution of the Saracens and Turks against the Christians, thou hast to understand, good reader, and behold the image of a terrible antichrist evidently appearing both by his own doings, and also by the Scriptures, prophesied and declared to us before. Now in comparing the Turk with the pope, if a question be asked, whether of them is the truer or greater antichrist, it were easy to see and judge, that the Turk is the more open and manifest enemy against Christ and his church. But if it be asked whether of them two hath been the more bloody and pernicious adversary to Christ and his members; or whether of them hath consumed and spilt more Christian blood, he with sword, or this with fire and sword together, neither is it a light matter to discern, neither is it my part here to discuss, which do only write the history and the acts of them both. Wherefore, after the story of the Turks thus finished, now to re-enter again there where we left, in describing the domestical troubles and persecutions here at home under the bishop of Rome; after the burning of Babram in Norfolk above declared. I signified also of another certain aged man, mentioned in an old written Chronicle borrowed of one in the Tower, entitled Polychron, although I find not his name in the said Chronicle expressed, which suffered the pains of burning in Smithfield, about the same time, which was the year of our Lord 1500.
This aged father, I suppose, is he of whom I find mention made of certain old papers and records of William Cary, citizen, albeit the day of the month doth a little differ, wherein is thus testified, that on the twentieth day of July, A. D. 1500, upon the day of St. Margaret, there was an old man burned in Smithfield for a heretic; and the same person, upon the tenth day before he was burnt, would have stolen out of the Lollard's Tower, and so falling out of the Tower, did foully hurt himself; whereupon he was carried in a cart to his death, as he went to his burning.
In the aforesaid papers of ancient record, is furthermore declared, how in the year above prefixed, which was A. D. 1499, in the time of one Persevel, many were taken for heretics in Kent, and at Paul's Cross they bare faggots and were abjured; and shortly after, the same year, there went thirteen Lollards before the procession in Paul's, and there were of them eight women and a young lad, and the lad's mother was one of the eight, and all the thirteen bare faggots on their necks before the procession.
William Tylsworth, martyr.
Forasmuch as the world is come now to such a morosity and peevish insensibility in these contentious and cavilling days of ours, that nothing can be so circumspectly written and storied, but shall lie in danger of one sycophant or another, which never will credit there where they list not to like; neither will they ever like that which seemeth prejudicial to their faction, or not to serve the humour wherewith their fantasies be infected; therefore to stop the mouths of such carping cavillers with as much possibility as I may, be it known to all and singular such persons, who by evidence of truth and witness will be satisfied, that in the town of Amersham be yet alive both men and women, which can and do bear witness of this that I shall declare. Also there is of the said company, one named William Page, an aged father and yet alive, witness to the same. Also another named Agnes Wetherley, widow, being about the age of a hundred years, yet living and witness hereof; that in the days of King Henry the Seventh, A. D. 1506, in the diocese of Lincoln in Buckinghamshire, (William Smith being bishop of the same diocese,) one William Tylsworth was burned in Amersham, in a close called Stanley, about sixty years ago. At which time one Joan Clerke, being a married woman, which was the only daughter of the said William Tylsworth and a faithful woman, was compelled with her own hands to set fire to her dear father; and at the same time her husband, John Clerke, did penance at her father's burning, and bare a faggot, as did also
Thomas Harding, and his wife.
John Milsent, and his wife.
John Mumbe, and his wife.
All these bare faggots, and afterward were compelled to wear certain badges, and went abroad to certain towns to do penance, as to Buckingham, Aylesbury, and other towns more. And also divers of these men were afterward burned in the cheek, as William Page, which at this present is alive, and likewise did bear a faggot with the aforesaid. Furthermore, the aforesaid Agnes Wetherley testifieth, that at the burning of this William Tylsworth, sixty and above that were put to bear faggots for their penance, of whom divers were enjoined to bear and wear faggots at Lincoln the space of seven years, some at one time, some at another, &c. In which number was also one Robert Bartlet, a rich man, who for his profession sake was put out of his farm and goods, and was condemned to be kept in the monastery of Ashryge, where he wore on his right sleeve a square piece of cloth, the space of seven years together.
It followeth moreover, in the testimony of the forenamed, that about the same time of the burning of William Tylsworth, (as the Amersham men do say,) or the next day after, as recordeth the aforesaid Agnes, was one father Roberts burned at Buckingham. He was a miller, and dwelt at Missenden; and at his burning there were about twenty persons that were compelled to bear faggots, and to do such penance as the wicked Pharisees did compel them. After that, by the space of two or three years, was burned at Amersham, Thomas Bernard, a husbandman, and James Mordon, a labourer; they two were burned both at one fire, and there was William Littlepage, (who is yet alive,) compelled to be burned in the right cheek, and father Rogers, and father Rever, alias Reive, which after was burned. This father Rogers was in the bishop's prison fourteen weeks together, night and day, where he was so cruelly handled with cold, hunger, and irons, that after his coming out of the said prison he was so lame in his back, that he could never go upright as long as he lived, as can testify divers honest men that be now living. Also there were thirty more burned in the right cheek and bare faggots the same time. The cause was, that they would talk against superstition and idolatry, and were desirous to hear and read the Holy Scriptures. The manner of their burning in the cheek was this: their necks were tied fast to a post or stay with towels, and their hands holden that they might not stir, and so the iron, being hot, was put to their cheeks; and thus bare they the prints and marks of the Lord Jesus about them.
The cruel handling of Thomas Chase of Amersham, wickedly strangled and martyred in the bishop's prison at Woburn, under William Smith, bishop of Lincoln.
Among these aforesaid, which were so cruelly persecuted for the gospel and word of Christ, one Thomas Chase, of Amersham, was one of them that was thus cruelly handled: which Thomas Chase, by the report of such as did know him, was a man of a godly, sober, and honest behaviour, (whose virtuous doings do yet remain in memory,) and could not abide idolatry and superstition, but many times would speak against it. Wherefore the ungodly and wicked did the more hate and despise him, and took him, and brought him before the blind bishop, being at that time in Woburn, in the county of Buckingham; and as it is written, Acts xii., that wicked Herod did vex certain of the congregation, and killed James the brother of John with the sword, and because he saw that it pleased the Jews, &c.; he proceeded further, and had this same Thomas Chase before him, asking him many questions touching the Romish religion, with many taunts, checks, and rebukes; but what answer this godly man, Thomas Chase, made them, it is unknown. Howbeit it is to be supposed, that his answer was most zealous and godly in professing Christ's true religion and gospel, and to the extirpation of idolatry, and superstition, and hypocrisy, for that the said Thomas Chase was commanded to be put in the bishop's prison, called Little Ease, in the bishop's house at Woburn, which prison had not been ministered unto him had not his answers been sound and upright. There Thomas Chase lay bound most painfully with chains, gyves, manacles, and irons, ofttimes sore pined with hunger, where the bishop's alms was daily brought unto him by his chaplains; which alms was nothing else but checks, taunts, rebukes, and threatenings, floutings, and mockings. All which cruelty the godly martyr took most quietly and patiently, remembering and having respect to Christ's promises, Matt. v., Blessed are they which suffer persecution for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; and as followeth, Blessed are ye when men revile you and persecute you, &c. When the bishop, with his band of shavelings, perceived that by their daily practices of cruelty they could not prevail against him, but rather that he was the more fervent and earnest in professing Christ's true religion, and that he did tolerate and bear most patiently all their wickedness and cruelty ministered unto him, they imagined how and which way they might put him to death, lest there should be a tumult or an uproar among the people. And as Richard Hun shortly about the year of our Lord 1514, even so these after was hanged or strangled in Lollards' Tower, blood-suckers most cruelly strangled and pressed to death this said Thomas Chase in prison, which most heartily called upon God to receive his spirit, as witnesseth a certain woman that kept him in prison.
Illustration -- Lollard's Tower, Lambeth Palace
After that these stinging vipers, being of the wicked brood of antichrist, had thus most cruelly and impiously murdered this faithful Christian, they were at their wits' end, and could not tell what shift to make to cloak their shameful murder withal: at last, to blind the ignorant, silly people, these bloody butchers most slanderously caused it by their ministers to be bruited abroad, that the aforesaid Thomas Chase had hanged himself in prison; which was a most shameful and abominable lie, for the prison was such that a man could not stand upright, nor lie at ease, but stooping, as they do report that did know it. And besides that, this man had so many manacles and irons upon him, that he could not well move either hand or foot, as the woman did declare that saw him dead, insomuch that they confessed that his heart was broken, by reason they had so vilely beaten him and bruised him. And yet these holy catholics had not made an end of their wicked act in this both killing and slandering ofthis godly martyr; but to put out the remembrance of him, they caused him to be buried in the wood called Norland wood, in the highway betwixt Woburn and Little Marlow, to the intent he should not be taken up again to be seen: and thus commonly are innocent men laid up by these clerkly clergymen. But He that is effectually true, of himself hath promised, at one time or at another, to clear his true servants, not with lies and fables, but by his own true word. No secret, saith he, is so close, but once shall be opened; neither is any thing so hid, that shall not at the last be known clearly. Such a sweet Lord is God always to those that are his true servants. Blessed be his holy name therefore, for ever and ever. Amen.
Thomas Harding, being one of this company, thus molested and troubled, as is aforesaid, in the town of Amersham, for the truth of the gospel, after his abjuration and penance done, was again sought for, and brought to the fire, in the days of King Henry the Eighth, and under Dr. Longland, then bishop of Lincoln, succeeding after Cardinal Wolsey; of whose death and martyrdom we shall likewise record, Christ willing and granting, in order, when we shall come to the time and year of his suffering.
After the martyrdom of these two, I read also of one Thomas Norice, who likewise for the same cause, that is, for the profession of Christ's gospel, was condemned by the bishop, and burnt at Norwich, the last day of March, A. D. 1507.
In the next year following, which was A. D. 1508, in the consistory of London, was convented Elizabeth Sampson, of the parish of Aldermanbury, upon certain articles, and specially for speaking against pilgrimage and adoration of images, as the image of our Lady at Wilsdon, at Staines, at Crome, at Walsingham, and the image of St. Saviour of Bermondsey, and against the sacrament of the altar, and for that she had spoken these or like words; that our Lady of Wilsdon was but a burnt arse elf, and a burnt arse stock; and if she might have holpen men and women which go to her on pilgrimage, she would not have suffered her tail to have been burnt: and what should folk worship our Lady of Wilsdon, or our Lady of Crome? for the one is but a burnt arse stock, and the other is but a puppet: and better it were for the people to give their alms at home to poor people, than to go on pilgrimage. Also she called the image of St. Saviour, Sim Saviour with kit lips; and that she said she could make as good bread as that which tie priest occupied, and that it was not the body of Christ, but bread, for that Christ could not be both in heaven and in earth at one time. For these and certain other articles, she was compelled to abjure before Master William Horsey, chancellor, the day and year above written.
Lamentable it is to remember, and a thing almost infinite to comprehend the names, times, and persons of all them which have been slain by the rigour of the pope's clergy, for the true maintaining of Christ's cause, and of his sacraments. Whose memory being registered in the book of life, albeit it need not the commemoration of our stories, yet for the more confirmation of the church, I thought it not unprofitable, the suffering and martyrdom of them to be notified, which innocently have given their blood to be shed in Christ's quarrel.
In the catalogue of whom, next in order, cometh the memorial of Laurence Ghest, who was burned in Salisbury for the matter of the sacrament, in the days of King Henry the Seventh: he was of a comely and tall personage, and otherwise (as appeareth) not unfriended; for the which, the bishop and the close were the more loth to burn him, but kept him in prison the space of two years. This Laurence hada wife and seven children. Wherefore they, thinking to expugn and persuade his mind, by stirring of his fatherly affection toward his children, when the time came which they appointed for his burning, as he was at the stake, they brought before him his wife and his aforesaid seven children. At the sight whereof, although nature is commonly wont to work in other, yet in him religion overcoming nature, made his constancy to remain unmovable, in such sort, as when his wife began to exhort and desire him to favour himself, he again desired her to be content, and not to be a block in his way, for he was in a good course, running toward the mark of his salvation; and so fire being put to him, he finished his life, renouncing not only wife and children, but also himself to follow Christ. As he was in burning, one of the bishop's men threw a firebrand at his face; whereat the brother of Laurence, standing by, ran at him with his dagger, and would have slain him, had he not been otherwise stayed.
Testified and witnessed by the credible report of one William Russell, an aged man dwelling of late in Coleman Street, who was there present the same time at the burning of Laurence, and was also himself burned in the cheek, and one of the persecuted flock in those days, whose daughter is yet living: the same is confirmed also with the testimony of one Richard Webb, servant sometime to Master Latimer, who, sojourning in the house of the said William Russell, heard him many times declare the same.
A faithful woman burned.
But amongst all the examples of God, whereof so many have suffered from time to time for Christ and his truth, I cannot tell if ever were any martyrdom more notable and admirable, wherein the plain demonstration of God's mighty power and judgment hath at any time been more evident against the persecutors of his flock, than at the burning of a certain godly woman, put to death in Chipping Sudbery, about the same time, under the reign of King Henry the Seventh.
The constancy of which blessed woman, as it is glorious for all true godly Christians to behold; so again the example of the bishop's chancellor, which cruelly condemned the innocent, may offer a terrible spectacle to the eyes of all papistical persecutors to consider, and to take example, which the living God grant they may. Amen. The name of the town where she was martyred was, as is said, Cheaping Sadbery. The name of the woman is not as yet come to my knowledge. The name of the chancellor who condemned her, was called Doctor Whittington. The time of her burning was in the reign and time of King Henry the Seventh, orderly therefore in this place and time to be inserted. Wherein is to be noted moreover the opportunity of this present history brought to my hands, and that in such convenient season, as I was drawing toward the end of the aforesaid king's reign; so that it may appear to them which behold the opportunity of things, not to be without God's holy will and providence, that this aforesaid example should not lie hid and unremembered, but should come to light and knowledge, and that in sueh order of placing, according as the due course of our story hitherto kept, requireth.
After this godly woman, and manly martyr of Christ, was condemned by the wretched chancellor above-named, Doctor Whittington, for the faithful profession of the truth, which the papists then called heresy, and the time now come when she should be brought to the place and pains of her martyrdom, a great concourse of all the multitude, both in the town and country about, (as the manner is in such times,) was gathered to behold her end. Among whom was also the aforesaid Doctor Whittington the chancellor, there present, to see the execution done. Thus the faithful woman, and true servant of God, constantly persisting in the testimony of the truth; committing her cause to the Lord, gave over her life to the fire, refusing no pains nor torments to keep her conscience clear and unreprovable in the day of the Lord. The sacrifice being ended, the people began to return homeward, coming from the burning of this blessed martyr. It happened in the mean time, that as the catholic executioners were busy in slaying this silly lamb at the town's side, a certain butcher was as busy within the town slaying of a bull, which bull he had fast bound in ropes, ready to knock him on the head. But the butcher, (belike not so skilful in his art of killing beasts as the papists be in murdering Christians,) as he was lifting his axe to strike the bull, failed in his stroke, and smote a little too low, or else how he smote I know not; this was certain, that the bull, although somewhat grieved at the stroke, but yet not stricken down, put his strength to the ropes, and brake loose from the butcher into the street, the very same time as the people were coming in great press from the burning. Who seeing the bull coming towards them, and supposing him to be wild, (as it was no other like,) gave way for the beast, every man shifting for himself as well as he might. Thus the people giving back, and making a lane for the bull, he passed through the throng of them, touching neither man nor child, till he came where the chancellor was. Against whom the bull, as pricked with a sudden vehemency, ran full butt with his horns, and taking him upon the paunch, gored him through and through, and so killed him immediately, carrying his guts, and trailing them with his horns all the street over, to the great admiration and wonder of all them that saw it.
Although the carnal sense of man be blind in considering the works of the Lord, imputing many times to blind chance the things which properly pertain to God's only praise and providence; yet in this so strange and so evident example, what man can be so dull or ignorant, which seeth not herein a plain miracle of God's mighty power and judgment, both in the punishing of this wretched chancellor, and also in admonishing all other like persecutors, by his example, to fear the Lord, and to abstain from the like cruelty.
Now for the credit of this story, lest I be said upon mine own head to commit to story things rashly, which I cannot justify; therefore, to stop such cavilling mouths, I will discharge myself with authority, I trust, sufficient, that is, with the witness of him which both was a papist, and also present at the same time at the burning of the woman, whose name was Rowland Webb; which Rowland, dwelling then in Chipping Sudbery, had a son named Richard Webb, servant sometime to Master Latimer, who also enduring with him in time of his trouble six years together, was himself imprisoned and persecuted for the same cause. Unto the which Richard Webb, being now aged, then young, the aforesaid Rowland his father, to the intent to exhort him from the sect of heresy, (as he then called it,) recited to him many times the burning of this woman, and withal added the story of the bull aforesaid, which he himself did see and testify.
And thus much concerning the state of the church. Wherein is to be understood, what storms and persecutions have been raised up in all quarters against the flock and congregation of Christ, not only by the Turks, but also at home within ourselves, by the bishop of Rome and his retinue. Where also it is to be noted in the days and reign of this King Henry the Seventh, how mightily the working of God's gospel hath multiplied and increased, and what great numbers of men and women have suffered for the same with us in England, as by these stories above passed may be apparent.
Now these things declared, which to the chureh matters be appertaining, consequently it remaineth something to treat of the state likewise of the commonwealth, which commonly doth follow the state of the church. Where the church is quietly and modestly governed, and the flock of Christ defended by godly princes in peace and safety, from devouring and violence of bloody wolves; the success of civil estate, for the most part, there doth flourish, and the princes long continue, through God's preservation, in prosperous rest and tranquillity. Contrariwise, where either the church of Christ, through the negligence of princes, or, through their setting on, the poor members of Christ, be persecuted and devoured; shortly after ensueth some just recompence of the Lord upon those princes, that either their lives do not long continue, or else they find not that quiet in the commonwealth which they look for. Examples hereof, as in all other ages be abundant, so in this present time be not lacking, whether we consider the state and condition of other countries far off, or else of our own country near at home.
And here not to wander in our story farther than to France only, let us a little behold the example of King Charles the Eighth, who living in this king's time, died also not long before him. This Charles is commended of Philippus Comineus, to be a moderate, valiant, and victorious prince, adorned with many special virtues to a prince appertaining. And yet the same king, beeause he was slack and remiss in defence of Christ's church, neither did use his authority, nor took his occasion offered to him of God, to amend and reform the estate of the bishop and clergy of Rome when he might, he was therefore himself punished and cut off of the Lord, as by his story ensuing may right well appear. For so it is of him recorded, that being marvellously excited and provoked, of his own mind (contrary to the counsel of most of his nobles) he took his journey into Italy, neither being furnished with money, nor the season of the year being convenient thereunto. And that this may appear the better to proceed of the Lord's doing, to the intent he would have the Church and clergy of Rome reformed by the prince's sword, which so vexed all Christendom at that time, we shall hear what is testified in the Commentaries of the said Philip Comineus, writing in this wise.
"There was," (saith he,) "in the city of Florence the same time a Dominic Friar, named Hieronymus Savanarola, (of whom mention was made before,) a man of a right godly and approved life; who in the said city of Florence preached and prophesied long before, that the French king should come with an army into Italy, being stirred up of God to suppress the tyrants of Italy, and none should withstand him. He should also come to the city of Pisa, and the state of Florence should be altered: all which happened true. He affirmed moreover to be signified to him of the Lord, that the ecelesiastical state of the church must be redressed per vim armorum, i. e. by the sword, or force of arms. Many things also he prophesied of the Venetians, and of the French king, saying, that the king with some dangerand difficulty should pass that journey, yet notwithstanding should overcome it and escape, albeit his strength were never so slender, for God would safely conduct him in that journey, and safely bring him home again. But because he had not done his office, in amending the state of the church, and in defending his people from injury, and from devouring, therefore it should come to pass, (saith he,) and that shortly, that some incommodity or detriment should happen to the king; or if he should escape that danger of his sickness and recover health, then if he did resist the cruelty of the wicked, and procure the safety of the poor and miserable, God would show mercy unto him," &c. And this the said Hieronymus declared before to Comineus, one of the king's counsellors, which was the writer of the story, and required him to signify the same unto the king, which so did; and he, moreover, himself coming to the presence of the king, declared no less.
All which things, as he had foretold, came directly to effect. For the king, being but easily accompanied with a small power, entered into Italy, where first he came to Asta, then to Genoa, and to Pisa, from thence proceeded to Florence, which also he obtained, displacing there Petrus Medices, the duke, who had used great tyranny upon the subjects. From thence he removed toward Rome, where a great part of the city wall, at the coming of the French king, fell down.
Afterward, when the king was entered into the city, and the pope (who then took part with Alphonsus, king of Naples, against the French king) had immured himself within the mount of Adrian, the wall of the castle fell down of itself; whereby when the king was both occasioned, and exhorted also by his captains, to invade the pope, and to depose him, and to reform the Church of Rome, which he might then easily have done as it had pleased him, yet all these occasions, offered so opportunely of God, moved not the king to do his duty, and to help the poor church of Christ; wherefore shortly after, returning home into France from Naples, either the same year, or the next year following, he was stricken with a sudden sickness at Amboise, as he was looking on them that played at tennis, and that in the most stinking place in all the castle, where he fell down and died within twelve hours, according to the forewarning of Hieronymus, who wrote unto him a little before, both of his son's death, and of his own, which was about the year of our Lord 1498.
Like examples we have many here also in this our realm of England. So long as King John kept out of the realm the pope's authority and power, he continued safe and quiet with his nobles; but so soon as he brought the realm under tribute and subjection to that foreign bishop, God stirred up his nobles against him, whereby he had much disquiet and trouble, and soon thereupon decayed.
Of all the kings of England, from William Conqueror to this King Henry the Seventh, were none which either longer continued, or more prosperously flourished, than King Henry the Second, King Henry the Third, King Edward the First, King Edward the Third; of whom the first, how stout he was in withstanding Thomas Becket and Pope Alexander the Third, is sufficiently before comprehended.
The second, which was son of King John, albeit, through the wretchedness of that time, his power was not sufficient to repulse the pope's usurped jurisdiction out of the realm, yet his will was good: at last he so defended and provided for his subjects, that they took no great wrong at the pope's hands; who reigned one year longer than Augustus Cæsar, which hath not commonly been seen in any prince.
The third, which was King Edward the First, so vigilantly behaved himself for the public commodity and safety of his people, that he defended them from all foreign power and hostility, both of the Scots, (then our enemies, now our friends,) and also from the bishop of Rome, taking part with them against us, as may appear above. Furthermore, of the same king, and of his worthy nobles and house of parliament, how valiantly they stood in denial of the pope's subsidies, and also how the said king secluded out of his protection the bishops, and especially the Archbishop Pecham, for standing with the pope, read before.
Now as touching King Edward the Third, how little he regarded, how princely he, with his nobles, likewise resisted the pope's reservations and provisions, how he bridled the archbishop, John Stratford, and rejected the vain authority of the bishop of Rome, both in defence of his subjects, and also in defence of claiming his right title in the realm of France, read before.
Not that I do here affirm or define, as in a general rule, that worldly success and prosperity of life always follow the godly, which we see rather to be given more often to the wicked sort; but speaking of the duty of princes, I note and observe, by examples of histories, that such princes as have most defended the church of Christ, committed to their governance, from injury and violence of the bishop of Rome, have not lacked at God's hand great blessing and felicity; whereas, contrariwise, they which either themselves have been persecutors of Christ's members, or have not shielded them by their protection from foreign tyranny and injuries, have lacked at God's hand that protection which the other had; as may appear by King Edward the Second, Richard the Third, King Henry the Fourth, King Henry the Fifth, King Henry the Sixth, &c.; who because either negligently they have suffered or cruelly caused such persecuting laws to be made, and so much Christian blood injuriously to be devoured, therefore have they been the less prospered of the Lord, so that either they were deposed, or if they flourished for a while, yet they did not long continue, almost not half the time of the other kings before named.
And therefore, as the state of the commonwealth doth commonly follow the state of the church, as ye heard before; so it had been to be wished, that this King Henry the Seventh, being otherwise a prudent and temperate prince, had not permitted the intemperate rage of the pope's clergy so much to have their wills over the poor flock of Christ, as then they had; according as by these persecutions above mentioned may appear. The which King Henry the Seventh, albeit he had a sufficient continuance, who had now reigned twenty-four years, yet, notwithstanding, here cometh the same thing to be noted, whereof I spake before; that when the church of Christ beginneth to be injured with violence, and to go to wreck through misorder and negligence, the state of the commonwealth cannot there long endure without some alteration, and stroke of God's correction. But howsoever this mark is to be taken, thus lieth the story; that after the burning and vexing of these poor servants of Christ above recited, when the persecution began now in the church to be hot, God calleth away the king, the same year above mentioned, which was 1509, after he had reigned the term of twenty-four years. Who, if he had adjoined a little more pitiful respect, in protecting Christ's poor members from the fire of the pope's tyranny, to his other great virtues of singular wisdom, excellent temperance, and moderate frugality; so much had he been comparable with the best of those princes above comprehended, as he had been inferior but to a few; but this defect which lacked in him, was supplied most luckily, blessed be the Lord, by his posterity succeeding after him. Of whom in the next volume following, Christ thereunto assisting us, we have to specify more at large.
Among many other things incident in the reign of this King Henry the Seventh, I have overpassed the history of certain godly persons persecuted in the diocese of Coventry and Litchfield, as we find them in the registers of the diocese recorded, here following. The year of our Lord 1485, March the ninth amongst divers and sundry other good men in Coventry, these nine hereunder named, were examined before John, bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, in St. Michael's church, upon these articles following in order.
"First, John Blomston was openly and publicly infamed, accused, reported, and appeached, that he was a very heretic, because he had preached, taught, holden, and affirmed, that the power attributed to St. Peter in the church of God, by our Saviour Jesus Christ immediately, did not flit or pass from him, to remain with his successors.
"Item, That there was as much virtue in a herb, as in the image of the Virgin Mary.
"Item, That prayer and alms avail not the dead; for incontinent after death he goeth either to heaven or hell, whereupon he concludeth there is no purgatory.
"Item, That it was foolishness to go on pilgrimage to the image of our Lady of Doncaster, Walsingham, or of the tower of the city of Coventry; for a man might as well worship the blessed Virgin by the fire-side in the kitchen, as in the aforesaid places; and as well might a man worship the blessed Virgin when he seeth his mother or sister, as in visiting the images, because they be no more but dead stocks and stones.
"Item, That he said in English, with a frowning countenance, as it appeared, A vengeance on all such whoreson priests, for they have great envy that a poor man should get his living among them.
"Richard Hegham of the same city was accused, &c., to be a very heretic, because he did hold that a Christian man being at the point of death, should renounce all his own works good and ill, and submit him to the mercy of God.
"Item, That it was fondness to worship the images of our Lady of Tower in the aforesaid city, or of other saints, for they are but stocks and stones.
"Item, That if the image of our Lady of Tower were put into the fire, it would make a good fire.
"Item, That it were better to deal money unto poor folks, than to offer to the image of Christ and other saints; which are but dead stocks and stones.
"Robert Crowther of the same city was accused that he was a heretic, because he did hold, that whoso receiveth the sacrament of the altar in deadly sin, or out of charity, receiveth nothing but bread and wine.
"Item, That neither bishop, nor priests or curates of churches, have power in the market of penance to bind and loose.
"Item, That pilgrimage to the image of our Lady of Tower is foolishness, for it is but a stock or a stone.
"John Smith was accused to be a very heretic, because he did hold, that every man is bound toknow the Lord's Prayer and the Creed in English, if he might for these false priests.
"Item, That whoso believed as the churchmen did believe, believe ill; and that a man had need to frequent the schools a good while, ere that he can attain to the knowledge of the true and right faith.
"Item, That no priest hath power to absolve a man, in the market of penance, from his sins.
"Roger Browne, of the same city, was also accused to be a heretic, because he did hold, that no man ought to worship the image of our Lady of Walsingham, nor the blood of Christ at Hales, but rather God Almighty, who would give him whatsoever he would ask.
"Item, That he held not up his hands, nor looked up, at the elevation of the eucharist.
"Item, That he promised one to show him certain books of heresy, if he would swear that he would not utter them, and if he would credit them.
"Item, That he did eat flesh in Lent, and was taken with the manner.
"Item, If any man were not shriven in his whole life long, and in the point of death would be confessed, and could not, if he had no more but contrition only, he should pass to joy without purgatory; and if he were confessed of any sin, and were enjoined only to say for penance one Pater-noster, if he thought he should have any punishment in purgatory for that sin, he would never be confessed for any sin.
"Item, Because he said all is lost that is given to priests.
"Item, That there was no purgatory that would pardon all sins, without confession and satisfaction.
"Thomas Butler, of the same city, was likewise openly accused to be a very heretic, because he did hold, that there were but two ways, that is to say, to heaven and to hell.
"Item, That no faithful man should abide any pain after the death of Christ, for any sin, because Christ died for our sins.
"Item, That there was no purgatory, for every man immediately after death passeth either to heaven or hell.
"Item, That whosoever departeth in the faith of Christ and the church, howsoever he hath lived, shall be saved.
"Item, That prayers and pilgrimages are nothing worth, and avail not to purchase heaven.
"John Falkes was accused to be a very heretic, because he did affirm, that it was a foolish thing to offer to the image of our Lady, saying, Her head hall be hoar or I offer to her; what is it but a block? If it could speak to me, I would give it a halfpenny worth of ale.
"Item, That when the priest carrieth to the sick the body of Christ, why carrieth he not also the blood of Christ?
"Item, That he did eat cow milk upon the first Sunday of Lent.
"Item, That as concerning the sacrament of penance and absolution, no priest hath power to assoil any man from his sins, when he cannot make one hair of his head.
"Item, That the image of our Lady was but a stone or a block.
"Richard Hilmin was accused that he was a very heretic, because he did say and maintain, that it was better to part with money to the poor, than to give tithes to priests, or to offer to the images of our Lady, and that it were better to offer to images made by God, than to the images of God painted.
"Item, That he had the Lord's Prayer, and the salutation of the angel, and the Creed in English, and another book did he see and had, which contained the Epistles and Gospels in English, and according to them would he live, and thereby believed to be saved.
"Item, That no priest speaketh better in the pulpit than that book.
"Item, That the sacrament of the altar is but bread, and that the priests make it to blind the people.
"Item, That a priest, whilst he is at mass, is a priest; and after one mass done, till the beginning of another mass, he is no more than a layman, and hath no more power than a mere layman."
After they were enforced to recant, they were assoiled and put to penance.
"In the year of our Lord 1488, the third of April, Margaret Goyt, wife of James Goyt, of Ashburn, was brought before the aforesaid John, bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, who was there accused that she said, that that which the priests lift over their heads at mass, was not the true and very body of Christ; for if it were so, the priests could not break it so lightly into four parts, and swallow it as they do; for the Lord's body hath flesh and bones, so hath not that which the priests receive.
"Item, That priests, buying forty cakes for a halfpenny, and showing them to the people, and saying, that of every of them they make the body of Christ, do nothing but deceive the people and enrich themselves.
"Item, Seeing God in the beginning did create and make man, how can it be that man should be able to make God?"
This woman also was constrained to recant, and so was she assoiled and did penance.
Thus much I thought good here to insert, touching these aforesaid men of Coventry, especially for this purpose, because our cavilling adversaries be wont to object against us the newness of Christ's old and ancient religion. To the intent, therefore, they may see this doctrine not to be so new as they report, I wish they would consider both the time and articles here objected against these aforesaid persons, as is above premised.
I should also in the same reign of King Henry the Seventh, have induced that story of Johannes Picus, earl of Mirandula, the mention of whose name partly is touched before. This Picus, earl of Mirandula, being but a young man, was so excellently witted, and so singularly learned in all sciences and in all tongues, both Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic, that coming to Rome booted and spurred, he set up ninety conclusions, to dispute in the same with any in all Christendom, whosoever would come against him. Of which conclusions divers were touching the matter of the sacrament, &c. And when none was found in all Rome, nor in Europe, that openly would dispute with him, privily and in corners certain of the pope's clergy, prelates, lawyers, and friars, by the pope appointed, consulted together to inquire upon his conclusions, whereupon they did articulate against him for suspicion of heresy. And thus the unlearned clergy of Rome privily circumvented and entangled this learned earl in their snares of heresy, against whom they durst never openly dispute. He died being of the age of thirty-two years, of such wit and towardness, as is hard to say whether ever Italy bred up a better. In his sickness, Charles the Eighth, then French king, moved with the fame of his learning, came to visit him. The furniture of his books cost him seven thousand florins. A little before his death his mind was to give all away, and to take a cowl, to go about and preach, but the Lord would not permit him. His story requireth a long tractation, which, if place do serve, we will not, peradventure, forget. With two popes, that is, with Pope Innocent, and Alexander the Sixth, he had much vexation.
The names of the archbishops of Canterbury in this sixth book contained.