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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 176. JAMES BAINHAM, LAWYER, AND MARTYR.


James Bainham, gentleman, son to one Master Bainham, a knight of Gloucestershire, being virtuously brought up by his parents in the studies of good letters, had knowledge both of the Latin and the Greek tongue. After that he gave himself to the study of the law, being a man of virtuous disposition, and godly conversation, mightily addicted to prayer, an earnest reader of Scriptures, a great maintainer of the godly, a visitor of the prisoners, liberal to scholars, very merciful to his clients, using equity and justice to the poor, very diligent in giving counsel to all the needy, widows, fatherless, and afflicted, without money or reward; briefly, a singular example to all lawyers.

This Master Bainham, as is above noted, married the wife of Simon Fish aforesaid, for the which he was the more suspected, and at last was accused to Sir Thomas More, chancellor of England, and arrested with a serjeant-at-arms, and carried out of the Middle Temple to the chancellor's house at Chelsea, where he continued in free prison awhile, till the time that Sir Thomas More saw he could not prevail in perverting him to his sect. Then he cast him into prison in his own house, and whipping him at the tree in his garden, called the tree of Troth, and after sent him to the Tower to be racked; and so he was, Sir Thomas More being present himself, till in a manner he had lamed him, because he would not accuse the gentlemen of the Temple of his acquaintance, nor would show where his books lay; and because his wife denied them to be at his house, she was sent to the Fleet, and their goods confiscated.

After they had thus practised against him what they could by tortures and torments, then was he brought before John Stokesley, bishop of London, the fifteenth day of December, A.D. 1531, in the said town of Chelsea, and there examined upon these articles and interrogatories ensuing.

I. Whether he believed there were any purgatory of souls hence departed? -- Whereunto he made answer as followeth: "If we walk in light, even as he is in light, we have society together with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son hath cleansed us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins, and will purge us from all our iniquities.

II. Whether that the saints hence departed are to be honoured and prayed unto, to pray for us? -- To this he answered on this wise: "My little children, I write this unto you, that you sin not. If any man do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just, and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world." And further, upon occasion of these words, Let all the saints of God pray for us; being demanded what he meant by these words, All the saints, he answered, that he meant by them, those that were alive, as St. Paul did by the Corinthians, and not those that be dead: for he prayed not to them, he said, because he thought that they which be dead cannot pray for him. Item, when the whole church is gathered together, they used to pray one for another, or desire one to pray for another, with one heart; and that the will of the Lord may be fulfilled, and not ours: "and I pray," said he, "as our Saviour Christ prayed at his last hour: Father, take this cup from me if it be possible; yet thy will be fulfilled."

III. He was demanded whether he thought that any souls departed were yet in heaven or no? -- To this he answered and said, that he believed that they be there as it pleased God to have them, that is to say, in the faith of Abraham; and that herein he would commit himself to the church.

IV. It was demanded of him, whether he thought it necessary to salvation, for a man to confess his sins to a priest? -- Whereunto his answer was this: that it was lawful for one to confess and acknowledge his sins to another: as for any other confession, he knew none. And further he said, that if he came to a sermon, or any where else, where the word of God is preached, and there took repentance for his sin, he believed his sins forthwith to be forgiven of God, and that he needed not to go to any confession.

V. That he should say and affirm, that the truth of the Holy Scripture hath been hid, and appeared not these eight hundred years, neither was known before now. -- To this he said, that he meant no otherwise, but that the truth of Holy Scripture was never, these eight hundred years past, so plainly and expressly declared unto the people, as it hath been within these six years.

VI. He was demanded further, for what cause Holy Scripture hath been better declared within these six years, than it hath been these eight hundred years before? -- Whereunto he answered, To say plainly, he knew no man to have preached the word of God sincerely and purely, and after the vein of Scripture, except Master Crome and Master Latimer. And he said, moreover, that the New Testament now translated into English, doth preach and teach the word of God, and that before that time men did preach but only that folks should believe as the church did believe; and then if the church erred, men should err too. Howbeit the church of Christ, said he, cannot err: and that there were two churches, that is, the church of Christ militant, and the church of antichrist; and that this church of antichrist may and doth err; but the church of Christ doth not.

VII. Whether he knew any person that lived in the true faith of Christ, since the apostles' time? -- He said he knew Bayfield, and thought that he died in the true faith of Christ.

VIII. He was asked what he thought of purgatory and of vows? -- He answered, if any such thing had been moved to St. Paul of purgatory after this life, he thought St. Paul would have condemned it for a heresy. And when he heard Master Crome preach and say, that he thought there was a purgatory after this life, he thought in his mind that the said Master Crome lied, and spake against his conscience; and that there were a hundred more who thought the same as he did: saying moreover, that he had seen the confession of Master Crome in print, God wot, a very foolish thing, as he judged.

And as concerning vows, he granted that there were lawful vows, as Ananias vowed, for it was in his own power, whether he would have sold his possession or not, and therefore he did offend. But vows of chastity, and all godliness, is given of God by his abundant grace, the which no man of himself can keep, but it must be given him of God. And therefore, a monk, friar, or nun, that hath vowed the vows of religion, if they think after their vows made, that they cannot keep their promises that they made at baptism, they may go forth and marry, so that they keep, after their marriage, the promise that they made at baptism. And finally he concluded, that he thought there were no other vows, but only the vow of baptism.

IX. He was demanded, whether Luther, being a friar, and taking a nun out of religion, and afterwards marrying her, did well or no, and what he thought therein? -- He answered, That he thought nothing. And when they asked him, whether it was lechery or no? he made answer he could not say so.

As concerning the sacrament of anoiling, being willed to say his mind, he answered and said. "It was but a ceremony, neither did he wot what a man should be the better for such anoiling and anointing. The best was, that some good prayers, he saw, were said thereat.

Likewise touching the sacrament of baptism, his words were these: "That as many as repent, and do on them Christ, shall be saved; that is, as many as die concerning sin, shall live by faith with Christ. Therefore it is not we that live after that, but Christ in us. And so, whether we live or die, we are God's by adoption, and not by the water only, but by water and faith: that is, by keeping the promise made. For ye are kept by grace and faith, saith St. Paul, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God."

He was asked moreover of matrimony, whether it was a sacrament or not, and whether it conferreth grace; being commanded in the old law, and not yet taken away? -- His answer was, that matrimony is an order or law, that the church of Christ hath made and ordained, by the which men may take to them women, and not sin.

Lastly, for his books of Scripture, and for his judgment of Tyndale, because he was urged to confess the truth, he said, that he had the New Testament translated into the English tongue by Tyndale within this month, and thought he offended not God in using and keeping the same, notwithstanding that he knew the king's proclamation to the contrary, and that it was prohibited in the name of the church, at Paul's Cross; but, for all that, he thought the word of God had not forbid it. Confessing moreover, that he had in his keeping within this month these books; the Wicked Mammon, the Obedience of a Christian Man, the Practice of Prelates, the Answer of Tyndale to Thomas More's Dialogue, the book of Frith against Purgatory; the Epistle of George Gee, alias George Clerk: adding furthermore, that in all these books he never saw any errors; and if there were any such in them, then, if they were corrected, it were good that the people had the said books. And as concerning the New Testament in English, he thought it utterly good, and that the people should have it as it is. Neither did he ever know (said he) that Tyndale was a naughty fellow.

Also to these answers he subscribed his name. This examination, as is said, was the fifteenth of December. The next day following, namely, the sixteenth of December, the said James Bainham appeared again before the bishop of London, in the aforesaid place of Sir Thomas More at Chelsea; where, after the guise and form of their proceedings, first his former articles with his answers were again repeated, and his hand brought forth. This done, they asked him whether he would persist in that which he had said, or else would return to the catholic church, from whence he was fallen, and to which he might be yet received, as they said: adding, moreover, many fair, enticing, and alluring words, that he would reconcile himself, saying, the time was yet that he might be received; the bosom of his mother was open for him: otherwise, if he would continue stubborn, there was no remedy. Now was the time either to save, or else utterly to cast himself away. Which of these ways he would take, the case present now required a present answer, for else the sentence definitive was there ready to be read, &c.

To conclude long matter in few words, Bainham, wavering in a doubtful perplexity, between life on the one hand and death on the other, at length giving over to the adversaries, gave answer unto them, that he was contented to submit himself in those things wherein he had offended, excusing that he was deceived by ignorance.

Then the bishop, requiring him to say his mind plainly of his answers above declared, demanded what he thought thereof, whether they were true or no. To this Bainham said, that it was too high for him to judge. And then asked of the bishop, whether there was any purgatory, he answered and said, he could not believe that there was any purgatory after this life. Upon other articles being examined and demanded, he granted as followeth:

"That he could not judge whether Bayfield died in the true faith of Christ or no: that a man making a vow, cannot break it without deadly sin: that a priest, promising to live chaste, may not marry a wife: that he thinketh the apostles to be in heaven: that Luther did naught, in marrying a nun: that a child is the better for confirmation: that it is an offence to God, if any man keep books prohibited by the church, the pope, the bishop, or the king: and he said, that he pondered those points more now than he did before."

Upon these answers, the bishop, thinking to keep him in safe custody to further trial, committed him to one of the compters.

The time thus passing on, which bringeth all things to their end, in the month of February next following, A.D. 1532, the aforesaid James Bainham was called for again to the bishop's consistory, before his vicar-general and other his assistants; to whom Foxford, the bishop's chancellor, recited again his articles and answers above mentioned; protesting, that he intended not to receive him to the unity of the holy mother church, unless he knew the said Bainham to be returned again purely and unfeignedly to the catholic faith, and to submit himself penitently to the judgment of the church. To whom Bainham spake to this effect, saying, that he hath and doth believe the holy church, and holdeth the faith of the holy mother, the catholic church.

Wherefore the chancellor, offering to him a bill of his abjuration, after the form of the pope's church conceived, required him to read it; who was contented, and read to the clause of the abjuration containing these words: "I voluntarily, as a true penitent person returned from my heresies, utterly abjure" -- And there he stayed and would read no further, saying, that he knew not the articles contained in his abjuration to be heresy, therefore he could not see why he should refuse them. This done, the chancellor proceeded to the reading of the sentence definitive, coming to this place of the sentence, "the doctrine of the determination of the church," &c., and there paused, saying, he would reserve the rest till he saw his time: whom then Bainham desired to be good unto him, affirming that he did acknowledge that there was a purgatory; that the souls of the apostles were in heaven, &c. Then began he again to read the sentence, but Bainham again desired him to be good unto him; whereupon he ceased the sentence, and said that he would accept this his confession for that time, as sufficient.

So Bainham, for that present, was returned to his prison again; who then, the fifth day after, which was the eighth of February, appeared, as before, in the consistory; whom the aforesaid chancellor, repeating again his articles and answers, asked if he would abjure and submit himself. Who answered that he would submit himself, and as a good Christian man should. Again, the chancellor the second time asked if he would abjure. "I will," said he, "forsake all my articles, and will meddle no more with them;" and so being commanded to lay his hands upon the book, read his abjuration openly. After the reading whereof, he burst out into these words, saying, that because there were many words in the said abjuration which he thought obscure and difficile, he protested that by his oath he intended not to go from such defence, which he might have had before his oath. Which done, the chancellor asked him why he made that protestation. Bainham said, for fear lest any man of ill will do accuse me hereafter. Then the chancellor, taking the definitive sentence in his hand, posing himself (as appeared) to read the same, "Well, Master Bainham," said he, "take your oath, and kiss the book; or else I will do mine office against you:" and so immediately he took the book in his hand and kissed it, and subscribed the same with his hand.

Which done, the chancellor, receiving the abjuration at his hand, put him to his fine, first to pay twenty pounds to the king. After that, he enjoined him penance, to go before the cross in procession at Paul's, and to stand before the preacher during the sermon at Paul's Cross, with a faggot upon his shoulder, the next Sunday; and so to return with the sumner to the prison again, there to abide the bishop's determination: and so, the seventeenth day of February, he was released and dismissed home; where he had scarce continued a month, but he bewailed his fact and abjuration; and was never quiet in mind and conscience until the time he had uttered his fall to all his acquaintance, and asked God and all the world forgiveness, before the congregation in those days, in a warehouse in Bow-lane. And immediately, the next Sunday after, he came to St. Austin's, with the New Testament in his hand in English, and the Obedience of a Christian Man in his bosom, and stood up there before the people in his pew, there declaring openly, with weeping tears, that he had denied God; and prayed all the people to forgive him, and to beware of his weakness, and not to do as he did: "for," said he, "if I should not return again unto the truth, (having the New Testament in his hand,) this word of God would damn me both body and soul at the day of judgment." And there he prayed every body rather to die by and by, than to do as he did: for he would not feel such a hell again as he did feel, for all the world's good. Besides this, he wrote also certain letters to the bishop, to his brother, and to others; so that shortly after he was apprehended, and so committed to the Tower of London.


The process against James Bainham in case of relapse.

The nineteenth day of April, 1532, Master Richard Foxford, vicar-general to the bishop of London, accompanied by certain divines, and Matthew Grefton the registrar, sitting judicially, James Bainham was brought before him by the lieutenant of the Tower; before whom the vicar-general rehearsed the articles contained in his abjuration before made, and showed him a bound book, which the said Bainham acknowledged to be his own writing, saying, that it was good. Then he showed him more of a certain letter sent unto the bishop of London, the which also he acknowledged to be his; objecting also to the said Bainham, that he had made and read the abjuration which he had before recited: showing him moreover certain letters which he had written unto his brother, the which he confessed to be his own writing; saying moreover, that though he wrote it, yet there is one thing in the same that is naught, if it be as my lord chancellor saith. Then he asked of Bainham, how he understood this which followeth, which was in his letters: "Yet could they not see nor know him for God, when indeed he was both God and man; yea, he was three persons in one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." And Bainham said it was naught. Which things thus done, there was further objected unto him these words, that he had as leave pray to Joan his wife, as to our Lady. The which article Bainham denied. The said Bainham, amongst other talk, as touching the sacrament of the altar, said, "Christ's body is not chewed with teeth, but received by faith." Further it was objected against him, that notwithstanding his abjuration, he had said, that the sacrament of the altar was but a mystical or memorial body. The which article Bainham denied. It was further laid unto him, that he should say that St. Thomas of Canterbury was a thief, and a murderer, and a devil in hell: whereunto he answered thus: that St. Thomas of Canterbury was a murderer; and if he did not repent him of his murder, he was rather a devil in hell, than a saint in heaven.

The twentieth day of April, in the year aforesaid, the said James Bainham was brought before the vicar-general, in the church of All Saints, of Barking, where he ministered these interrogatories unto him:

First, That since the feast of Easter last past, he had said, affirmed, and believed, that the sacrament of the altar was but a mystical body of Christ; and afterwards he said, it was but a memorial. Which article Bainham denied. Then the vicar-general declared unto him, that our holy mother the catholic church determineth and teacheth in this manner: that in the sacrament of the altar, after the words of consecration, there remaineth no bread. The official asked Bainham, whether he did so believe or not? To this Bainham answered, saying, that St. Paul calleth it bread, rehearsing these words, As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death: and in that point he saith as St. Paul saith, and believeth as the church believeth. And being demanded twice afterwards, what he thought therein, he would give no other answer.

Item, That since the feast of Easter aforesaid, he had affirmed and believed, that every man that would take upon him to preach the gospel of Christ clearly, had as much power as the pope. To this article he answered thus: "He that preacheth the word of God purely, whatsoever he be, and liveth thereafter, he hath the key that bindeth and looseth both in heaven and earth; which key is the same Scripture that is preached: and the pope hath no other power to bind and to loose, but by the key of the Scripture.

Item, That he affirmed that St. Thomas of Canterbury was a thief and a murderer, and in hell. -- To this he answered as before.

Item, That he said, that he had as leave pray to Joan his wife, as to our Lady. This he denied as before.

Item, That he affirmed and believed, that Christ himself was but a man. -- This article he also denied.

The premises thus passed, the vicar-general received Francis Realms, John Edwards, Ralph Hilton, John Ridley, Francis Driland, and Ralph Noble, as witnesses to be sworn upon the articles aforesaid, and to speak the truth before the face of the said James Bainham, in the presence of Master John Nayler, vicar of Barking; Master John Rode, bachelor of divinity; William Smith, Richard Grivel, Thomas Wimple, and Richard Gill.

The twenty-sixth day of April, in the year aforesaid, before Master John Foxford, vicar-general of the bishop of London, in the presence of Matthew Grefton, registrar; and Nicholas Wilson and William Philley, professors of divinity; John Oliver, William Middleton, and Hugh Aprice, doctors of the law: Master Richard Gresham, sheriff of London, and a great company of others: James Bainham, was brought forth by the lieutenant of the Tower, in whose presence the vicar-general rehearsed the merits of the cause of inquisition of heresy agsinst him, and proceeded to the reading of the abjuration. And when the judge read this article following, contained in the abjuration: "Item, That I have said, that I will not determine whether any souls departed be yet in heaven or no, but I believe that they be there as it pleaseth God to have them; that is to say, in the faith of Abraham; and I wot not whether the souls of the apostles or any others be in heaven or no:" to this James answered, "That I did abjure, and if that had not been, I would not have abjured at all."

After all the articles were read contained in the abjuration, and certain talk had as touching the sacrament of baptism, the said James Bainham spake these words: "If a Turk, a, Jew, or a Saracen, do trust in God, and keep his law, he is a good Christian man." Then the official showed unto him the letters which he sent unto his brother, written with his own hand, and asked him what he thought as touching this clause following: "Yet could they not see and know him for God, when indeed he was both God and man, yea, he was three persons in one, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Whereunto Bainham said that it was naught, and that he did it by ignorance, and did not oversee his letters. Then Master Nicholas Wilson, among other talk, as touching the sacrament of the altar, declared unto him that the church did believe the very body of Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar. Bain-ham answered, "The bread is not Jesus Christ, for Christ's body is not chewed with teeth, therefore it is but bread." Being further demanded whether in the sacrament of the altar is the very body of Christ, God and man in flesh and blood; after divers doubtful answers, Bainham answered thus: "He is there very God and man, in form of bread."

This done, the official declared unto him the depositions of the witnesses which were come in against him; and objected unto him that a little before Easter, he had abjured all heresies, as well particularly as generally. Then the said vicar-general, after he had taken deliberation and advice with the learned his assistants, did proceed to the reading of the definitive sentence against him, and also published the same in writing; whereby, amongst other things, besides his abjuration, he pronounced and condemned him as a relapsed heretic, damnably fallen into sundry heresies, and so to be left unto the secular power; that is to say, to one of the sheriffs being there present. After the pronouncing of this sentence, Master Nicholas Wilson counselled and admonished the said James, that he would conform himself unto the church; to whom he answered, that he trusted that he is the very child of God: "which ye blind asses," said he, "do not perceive." And last of all, departing from his judgment, he spake these words: "Master Wilson, nor you, my lord chancellor, shall not prove by Scripture, that there is any purgatory."

Then the sentence of condemnation was given against him, the which here to repeat word for word is not necessary, forasmuch as the tenor thereof is all one with that which passed before in the story of Bayfield, alias Somersam. Here also should ensue the letter of the bishop of London, directed unto the mayor and sheriffs of the same city, for the receiving of him into their power, and the putting of him to death, the tenor whereof is also of like effect to that before written in the story of Bayfield. After this sentence given, James Bainham was delivered into the hands of Sir Richard Gresham, sheriff, then being present, who caused him by his officers to be carried unto Newgate, and the said James Bainham was burned in Smithfield the last day of April, in the year aforesaid, at three of the clock at afternoon.

This Master Bainham, during his imprisonment, was very cruelly handled; for almost the space of a fortnight, he lay in the bishop's coal-house in the stocks, with irons upon his legs. Then he was carried to the lord chancellor's, and there chained to a post two nights: then he was carried to Fulham, where he was cruelly handled by the space of a week; then to the Tower, where he lay a fortnight, scourged with whips, to make him revoke his opinions. From thence he was carried to Barking; then to Chelsea, and there condemned; and so to Newgate to be burned.

Illustration -- James Bainham at the stake

At whose burning, here is notoriously to be observed, that as he was at the stake, in the midst of the flaming fire, which fire had half consumed his arms and legs, he spake these words: "O ye papists behold, ye look for miracles, and here now you may see a miracle; for in this fire I feel no more pain, than if I were in a bed of down: but it is to me as a bed of roses." These words spake he in the midst of the flaming fire, when his legs and arms, as I said, were half consumed.


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