143. PERSECUTION IN LINCOLN
In turning over the registers and records of Lincoln likewise, and coming to the year of our Lord 1520, and 1521, I find, that as the light of the gospel began more to appear, and the number of the professors to grow, so the vehemency of persecution and stir of the bishops began also to increase. Whereupon ensued great perturbation and grievous affliction in divers and sundry quarters of this realm, especially about Buckinghamshire, and Amersham, Uxbridge, Henley, Newbury, in the diocese of London, in Essex, Colchester, Suffolk and Norfolk, and other parts more. And this was before the name of Luther was heard of in these countries among the people. Wherefore they are much beguiled and misinformed, which condemn this kind of doctrine now received of novelty, asking where was this church and religion forty years ago, before Luther's time? To whom it may be answered, that this religion and form of doctrine was planted by the apostles, and taught by true bishops, afterward decayed, and now reformed again; although it was not received nor admitted of the pope's clergy before Luther's time, neither yet is, yet it was received of other, in whose hearts it pleased the Lord secretly to work, and that of a great number, which both professed and suffered for the same, as in the former times of this history may appear. And if they think this doctrine be so new, that it was not heard of before Luther's time, how then came such great persecution before Luther's time here in England? If these were of the same profession which they were of, then was their cruelty unreasonable, so to persecute their own catholic fraternity. And if they were otherwise, how then is this doctrine of the gospel so new, or the professors thereof so late start up, as they pretend them to be? But this cometh only of ignorance, and for not knowing or considering well the times and antiquities of the church which have been before us; which if they did, they should see and say, that the Church of England hath not lacked great multitudes, which tasted and followed the sweetness of God's holy word almost in as ample manner, for the number of well-disposed hearts, as now. Although public authority then lacked to maintain the open preaching of the gospel, yet the secret multitude of true professors was not much unequal; certes, the fervent zeal of those Christian days seemed much superior to these our days and times; as manifestly may appear by their sitting up all night in reading and hearing, also by their expenses and charges in buying of books in English; of whom some gave five marks, some more, some less, for a book. Some gave a load of hay for a few chapters of St. James, or of St. Paul, in English. In which rarity of books, and want of teachers, this one thing I greatly marvel and muse at, to note in the registers and to consider how the word of truth, notwithstanding, did multiply so exceedingly, as it did amongst them. Wherein is to be seen, no doubt, the marvellous working of God's mighty power. For so I find and observe in considering the registers, how one neighbour resorting and conferring with another, eftsoons, with a few words of their first or second talk, did win and turn their minds to that wherein they desired to persuade them, touching the truth of God's word and his sacraments. To see their travails, their earnest seeking, their burning zeal, their readings, their watchings, their sweet assemblies, their love and concord, their godly living, their faithful marrying with the faithful, may make us now in these our days of free profession to blush for shame.
Four principal points they stood in against the Church of Rome, in pilgrimage, adoration of saints, in reading Scripture books in English, and in the carnal presence of Christ's body in the sacrament.
After the great abjuration aforesaid, which was under William Smith, bishop of Lincoln, they were noted and termed among themselves by the name of "known men," or "just-fast men," as now they are called by the name of Protestants.
As they were simple, and yet not uncircumspect in their doings, so the crafty serpent, being more wily than they, by fraudulent subtlety did so circumvent them, that they caused the wife to detect the husband, the husband the wife; the father the daughter, the daughter the father; the brother to disclose the brother, and neighbour the neighbour. Neither were there any assemblies nor readings kept, but both the persons and also the books were known; neither was any word so closely spoken, nor article mentioned, but it was discovered. So subtlely and sleightly these catholic prelates did use their inquisitions and examinations, that nothing was done or said among these "known men," fifteen or twenty years before, so covertly, but it was brought at length to their intelligence. Such captious interrogatories, so many articles and suspicions they had, such espials and privy scouts they sent abroad, such authority and credit they had with the king, and in the king's name; such diligence they showed in that behalf, so violently and impudently they abused the book of the peaceable evangelists, wresting men's consciences upon their oath, swearing them upon the same to detect themselves, their fathers and mothers, and other of their kindred, with their friends and neighbours, and that to death. All which things in the further process of the table ensuing, (Christ willing,) which we have collected out of some part of the registers of Lincoln, shall appear.
For the better declaration whereof, first here is to be premonished by the way, touching the see of Lincoln, that after William Smith, succeeded John Longland. This William Smith, although he was somewhat eager and sharp against the poor simple flock of Christ's servants, under whom some were burned, many abjured, a great number molested, as partly hath been before declared; yet was he nothing so bloody and cruel as was the said Longland, who afterward succeeded in that diocese. For so I find of him, that in the time of the great abjuration and troublesome affliction of Buckinghamshire men, wherein many were abjured, and certain burned; yet divers he sent quietly home without punishment and penance, bidding them go home, and live as good Christian men should do. And many who were enjoined penance before, he did release. This Smith died about the year of our Lord 1515, by whom was builded, as is aforesaid, the college of Brazen-nose in Oxford.
Not long after him followed John Longland, a fierce and cruel vexes of the faithful poor servants of Christ; who, to renew again the old sparkles of persecution, which were not yet utterly quenched, first began with one or two of those which had been abjured, whom he thought to be most notorious, causing them by force of their oath, to detect and bewray, not only their own opinions touching points of religion, but also to discover all others of their affinity, which were either suspected or abjured before. And them likewise he put to their oath, most violently constraining them to utter and confess both themselves, and whom else soever they knew: by reason whereof, an incredible multitude of men, women, and maidens, were brought forth to examination, and straitly handled. And such as were found in relapse, were burned.
The rest were so burdened with superstitious and idolatrous penance and injunctions, that either through grief of conscience they shortly died, or else with shame they lived.
Captious interrogatories ministered commonly by the bishop of Lincoln, against these examinates here following.
The interrogatories or articles which Longland, bishop of Lincoln, used most commonly to minister to these examinates or "known men," in number were nine, and are these as followeth:
"1. First, Whether they or any of them did know, that certain of the parish of Amersham had been convented before William Smith, late bishop of Lincoln, for heresy?
"2. Item, Whether they knew that they, so convented before the said bishop, did err in the sacrament of the altar, or in any other sacrament of the church: and if they did, in what sacraments, and in which of them? Also whether they knew that the said parties so convented did confess their errors, and receive penance for the same?
"3. Item, Whether they, or any of them, were of the society of those so convented for heresy: and if they were, what fellowship they had with them, and with whom?
"4. Item, Whether they, or any of them, were ever conversant with such a one (naming the person whom they knew suspected, as with Thurstan Littlepage)? And if they were, what conversation they had with him, how long, and when: and whether they knew the said person to have been suspected of heresy?
"5. Item, Whether they, or any of them, were ever conversant with him; or with him (naming some other person whom they suspected, as Alexander Mastall)? and if they were, how, and how long? and whether they knew the said person to be suspected of heresy?
"6. Item, Whether they, or any of them, had been beforetime detected of heresy, to the office of the aforesaid William, bishop of Lincoln: and if they were, by what person or persons they were detected? or else, whether they only were called by the aforesaid William, bishop, for heresy?
"7. Item, Whether he or they be noted and holden for heretics; or be reputed and defamed to be of the sect of those who were convented for heresy? and whether he or they be named for a 'known man' amongst them?
"8. Item, Whether he or they have been ever at any readings of such as have been so convented for heresy?
"9. Item, Whether he or they were ever in any secret communication or conventicle with them? whom or which of them he knew to be named and reputed for a 'known man,' or holding against the sacrament of the altar, or other sacraments and articles of faith? and if they knew any such, to declare where and when, and what they were, and who were present the same time."
These articles and interrogatories thus declared, now followeth to be shown a certain brief sum compendiously collected out of the registers of John Longland, bishop of Lincoln, of the names first of those who by oath were constrained against their wills to detect and accuse others. Secondly, The persons that were accused. Thirdly, The crimes to them objected.
And first; forasmuch as the bishop perceived that Roger Bennet, William Chedwell, Edmund Dormer, Thomas Harding, Robert Andrew, with such others, were men especially noted to be of that side, therefore, to work his purpose the better, he began with them; producing the same as witnesses, to detect first Robert Bartlet of Amersham, and Richard his brother; understanding that these aforenamed witnesses, because they had been abjured before, durst now do no other, upon pain of relapse, but needs confess whatsoever was put unto them. And therefore, because Robert Bartlet and Richard his brother, being called before the bishop, and sworn upon their oath, would confess nothing against themselves; the bishop, to convict them by witnesses, went first to William Chedwell, lying sore sick in his bed, causing him upon the evangelists to swear, whether he knew the aforesaid Robert and Richard Bartlet to be "known men." Which being done, the bishop then called before him Robert Andrew, Roger Bennet, John Hill, Edmund Dormer, John Milsent, Thomas Bernard, Thomas Littlepage, John Dosset, (all Amersham men,) who, being abjured before, as is said, durst no otherwise do but confess upon their oath that Robert and Richard Bartlet were "known men." And yet the bishop, not contented with this, caused also their two wives, to wit, Margaret the wife of Robert Bartlet, and Isabel the wife of Richard Bartlet, to depose and give witness against their own natural husbands. Albeit Isabel Bartlet, being somewhat more temperate of her tongue, refused utterly to confess any thing of her husband, and denied her husband's words to be true; till at last, she, being convicted of perjury, was constrained to utter the truth. And first, as touching those who, being brought to abjuration, were put to their penance; long it were to recite the names of all. Certain I thought to recite here in a catalogue: first reciting the persons; afterwards the rigorous penance to them enjoined.
The names of those who were abjured in the diocese of Lincoln, A.D. 1521.
John Brabant the father.
John Brabant his son.
John Brabant the younger son.
John Butler the younger.
The towns, villages, and countries where these aforesaid persons did inhabit, are named chiefly to be these.
Missenden the Great.
Missenden the Less.
Coleman-street in London.
Cheapside in London.
Shoreditch by London.
St. Giles in London.
The books and opinions which these were charged withal, and for which they were abjured, partly are before expressed, partly here follow, in a brief summary to be seen.
A brief summary of their opinions
The opinions of many of these persons were, That he or she never believed in the sacrament of the altar, nor ever would; and that it was not as men did take it.
For that he was known of his neighbours to be a good fellow, meaning, that he was a "known man."
For saying, that he would give forty pence on condition that such a one knew as much as he did know.
Some, for saying that they of Amersham, who had been abjured before by Bishop Smith, were good men, and perfect Christians, and simple folk who could not answer for themselves, and therefore were oppressed by power of the bishop.
Some, for hiding others in their barns.
Some, for reading the Scriptures, or treatises of Scripture, in English: some, for hearing the same read.
Some, for defending, some for marrying with, them that had been abjured.
Some, for saying that matrimony was not a sacrament.
Some, for saying that worshipping of images was mawmetry; some, for calling images carpenters' chips; some, for calling them stocks and stones; some, for calling them dead things.
Some, for saying that money spent upon pilgrimage, served but to maintain thieves and harlots. Some, for calling the image in the rood-loft, "Block-almighty."
Others, for saying that nothing graven with man's hand was to be worshipped.
Some, for calling them fools who came from Master John Shorne in pilgrimage.
Another, for calling his vicar a poll-shorn priest. Another, for calling a certain blind chapel, being in ruin, an old fair milk-house.
Another, for saying that he threshed God Almighty out of the straw.
Another, for saying that alms should not be given before they did sweat in a man's hand.
Some, for saying that those who die, pass straight either to heaven or hell.
Isabel Bartlet was brought before the bishop and abjured, for lamenting her husband, when the bishop's man came for him; and saying, that he was an undone man, and she a dead woman.
For saying, that Christ, departing from his disciples into heaven, said that once he was in sinners' hands, and would come there no more.
Robert Rave, hearing a certain bell in an uplandish steeple, said, "Lo, yonder is a fair bell, an it were to hang about any cow's neck in this town;" and therefore, as for other such-like matters more, he was brought coram nobis!
Item, For receiving the sacrament at Easter, and doubting whether it was the very body of Christ, and not confessing their doubt to their ghostly father.
Some, for saying that the pope had no authority to give pardon, or to release man's soul from sin, and so from pain; and that it was nothing but blinding of the people, and to get their money.
The penance to these parties enjoined by this John Longland, bishop of Lincoln, was almost uniform, and all after one condition; save only that they were severally committed and divided into several and divers monasteries, there to be kept and found of alms all their life, except they were otherwise dispensed with by the bishop. As for example, I have here adjoined the bishop's letter for one of the said number, sent to the abbey of Ensham, there to be kept in perpetual penance; by which one, an estimation may be taken of the rest, who were bestowed likewise sundrily into sundry abbeys, as to Osney, to Frideswide, to Abingdon, to Thame, to Bicester, to Dorchester, to Netley, to Ashridge, and divers more. The copy of the bishop's letter, sent to the abbot of Ensham, here followeth underwritten.
Copy of the bishop's letter to the abbot of Ensham.
"My loving brother, I recommend me heartily unto you: And whereas I have, according to the law, put this bearer R. T. to perpetual penance within your monastery of Ensham, there to live as a penitent, and not otherwise; I pray you, and nevertheless according unto the law command you, to receive him, and see ye order him there according to his injunctions, which he will show you, if ye require the same. As for his lodging, he will bring it with him; and for his meat and drink, he may have such as you give of your alms. And if he can so order himself by his labour within your house in your business, whereby he may deserve his meat and drink; so may you order him as ye see convenient to his deserts, so that he pass not the precinct of your monastery. And thus fare you heartily well: From my place," &c.
As touching the residue of the penance and punishment inflicted on these men, they do little or nothing disagree, but had one order in them all; the manner and form whereof in the said bishop's register do proceed in condition as followeth:
Penance enjoined under pain of relapse, by John Longland, bishop of Lincoln, the 19th day of December, A.D. 1521.
"In primis, That every one of them shall, upon a market-day, such as shall be limited unto them, in the market-time, go thrice about the market at Burford, and then to stand up upon the highest greece of the cross there, a quarter of an hour, with a faggot of wood every one of them upon his shoulder, and every one of them once to bear a faggot of wood upon their shoulders, before their procession upon a Sunday, which shall be limited unto them at Burford, from the choir-door going out, to the choir-door going in; and all the high mass time, to hold the same faggot upon their shoulders, kneeling upon the greece before the high altar there; and every of them to do likewise in their own parish church, upon such a Sunday as shall be limited unto them: and once to bear a faggot at a general procession at Uxbridge, when they shall be assigned thereto; and once to bear a faggot at the burning of a heretic, when they shall be admonished thereto.
"Also every one Of them to fast, bread and ale only, every Friday during their life; and every even of Corpus Christi, every one of them to fast bread and water during their life, unless sickness unfeigned let the same.
"Also, to be said by them every Sunday, and every Friday, during their life, once our Ladypsalter; and if they forget it one day, to say as much another day for the same.
"Also neither they, nor any of them, shall hide their mark upon their cheek, neither with hat, cap, hood, kerchief, napkin, or none otherwise; nor shall suffer their beards to grow past fourteen days; nor ever haunt again together with any suspected person or persons, unless it be in the open market, fair, church, or common inn or alehouse, where other people may see their conversation.
"And all these injunctions they and every of them to fulfil with their penance, and every part of the same, under pain of relapse."
And thus have you the names, with the causes and the penance, of those who were at this present time abjured. By this word "abjured" is meant, that they were constrained by their oath, swearing upon the evangelists, and subscribing with their hand, and a cross to the same, that they did utterly and voluntarily renounce, detest, and forsake, and never should hold hereafter these or any other like opinions, contrary to the determination of the holy mother Church of Rome: And further, that they should detect unto their ordinary, whomsoever they should see or suspect hereafter to teach, hold, or maintain the same.
The names of them that were condemned for relapse, and committed unto the secular power.
Among these aforenamed persons who thus submitted themselves, and were put to penance, certain there were, who, because they had been abjured before, as is above-mentioned, under Bishop Smith, were now condemned for relapse, and had sentence read aginst them, and so were committed to the secular arm to be burned: whose names here follow: Thomas Bernard, James Morden, Robert Rave, and John Scrivener, martyrs.
Of these mention is made before, both touching their abjuration, and also their martyrdom; unto whom we may adjoin, Joan Norman, and Thomas Holmes.
This Thomas Holmes, albeit he had disclosed and detected many of his brethren, as in the table above is expressed; thinking thereby to please the bishop, and to save himself, and was thought to be a feed man of the bishop for the same: yet, notwithstanding, in the said bishop's register appeareth the sentence of relapse and condemnation, written and drawn out against him; and most likely he was also adjudged and executed with the others.
As touching the burning of John Scrivener, here is to be noted, that his children were compelled to set fire unto their father; in like manner as Joan Clerke also, daughter of William Tylsworth, was constrained to give fire to the burning of her own natural father, as is above specified.
The example of which cruelty, as it is contrary both to God and nature, so it hath not been seen or heard of in the memory of the heathen.
Where moreover is to be noted, that at the burning of this John Scrivener, one Thomas Dorman, mentioned before, was present, and bare a faggot, at Amersham; whose abjuration was afterwards laid against him, at what time he should depose for recovery of certain lands from the school of Berkhamstead. This Thomas Dorman (as I am credibly informed of certain about Amersham) was then uncle to this our Dorman, and found him to school at Berkhamstead, under Master Reeve; who now so uncharitably abuseth his pen in writing against the contrary doctrine, and raileth so fiercely against the blood of Christ's slain servants, miscalling them to be a dunghill of stinking martyrs.
Well, howsoever the savour of these good martyrs do scent in the nose of Master Dorman, I doubt not but they give a better odour and sweeter smell in the presence of the Lord: Pretiosa enim in conspectu Domini mars sanctorum ejus; Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. And therefore, howsoever it shall please Master Dorman with reproachful language to misterm the good martyrs of Christ, or rather Christ in his martyrs; his unseemly usage (more cart-like than clerk-like) is not greatly to be weighed. For, as the danger of his blasphemy hurteth not them that are gone, so the contumely and reproach thereof as well comprehendeth his own kindred, friends, and country, as any others else; and especially redoundeth to himself, and woundeth his own soul, and none else, unto the great provoking of God's wrath against him, unless he be blessed with better grace, by time to repent.