183. FOOLS AND TRAITORS WHO CLUNG TO THE POPE
Judge now thyself,loving reader, by these things heretofore confessed, alleged, allowed, proved, and confirmed, by pen set forth, by words defended, and by oath subscribed by these bishops and doctors, if either Martin Luther himself, or any Lutheran else, could or did ever say more against the proud usurpation of the bishop of Rome, than these men have done. If they dissembled otherwise than they meant, who could ever dissemble so deeply, speaking so pithily? If they meant as they spake, who could ever turn head to tail so suddenly and so shortly as these men did? But because these things we write for edification of others, rather than for commendation of them, let us mark therefore their reasons, and let the persons go.
Concerning the argument of which epistle, here is first to be understood, that about this time, or not much after, Cardinal Pole, brother to the Lord Montague, was attainted of high treason, and fled away unto Rome, where, within a short time after, he was made cardinal of St. Mary Cosmeden; of whom more is to be spoken hereafter, the Lord so permitting, when we come to the time of Queen Mary. In the mean time, he remaining at Rome, there was directed unto him a certain epistle exhortatory by Stokesley, bishop of London, and Tonstal, bishop of Durham, persuading him to relinquish and abandon the supremacy of the pope, and to conform himself to the religion of his king.
When all other the king's subjects, and the learned of the realm, had taken and accepted the oath of the king's supremacy, only Fisher, the bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, refused (as is afore said) to be sworn; who therefore, falling into the danger of the law, were committed to the Tower, and executed for the same, A.D. 1535. This John Fisher aforesaid had written before against Ścolampadius, whose book is yet extant, and afterwards against Luther.
Also, amongst other his acts, he had been a great enemy and persecutor of John Frith, the godly and learned martyr of Jesus Christ, whom he and Sir Thomas More caused to be burned a year and a half before: and, shortly after, the said Fisher, to his confusion, was charged with Elizabeth Barton, (called the holy maid of Kent,) and found guilty by act of parliament, as is above recorded. For his learning and other virtues of life this bishop was well reputed and reported of by many, and also much lamented by some. But whatsoever his learning was, pity it was that he, being endued with that knowledge, should be so far drowned in such superstition; more pity that he was so obstinate in his ignorance; but most pity of all, that he so abused the learning he had, to such cruelty as he did. But this commonly we see come to pass, as the Lord saith, that whoso striketh with the sword shall perish with the sword, and they that stain their hands with blood, seldom do bring their bodies dry to the grave; as commonly appeareth by the end of bloody tyrants, and especially such as be persecutors of Christ's poor members; in the number of whom were this bishop and Sir Thomas More, by whom good John Frith, Tewkesbury, Thomas Hitten, Bayfield, with divers other good saints of God, were brought to their death. It was said that the pope, to recompense Bishop Fisher for his faithful service, had elected him cardinal, and sent him a cardinal's hat as far as Calais; but the head that it should stand upon, was as high as London bridge ere ever the pope's hat could come to him. Thus Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, who a little before had put John Frith to death for heresy against the pope, were themselves executed and beheaded for treason against the king, the one the twenty-second of June, the other the sixth of July, A.D. 1535.
Of Sir Thomas More something hath been touched before, who was also counted a man both witty and learned: but whatsoever he was besides, a bitter persecutor he was of good men, and a wretched enemy against the truth of the gospel, as by his books left behind him may appear; wherein most slanderously and contumeliously he writeth against Luther, Zuinglius, Tyndale, Frith, Barnes, Bayfield, Bainham, Tewkesbury; falsely belying their articles and doctrine, as (God granting me life) I have sufficient matter to prove against him.
Briefly, as he was a sore persecutor of them that stood in defence of the gospel, so again, on the other side, such a blind devotion he bare to the pope-holy see of Rome, and so wilfully stood in the pope's quarrel against his own prince, that he would not give over till he had brought the scaffold of the Tower-hill, with the axe and all, upon his own neck.
Edward Hall in his Chronicle, writing of the death and manners of this Sir Thomas More, seems to stand in doubt whether to call him a foolish wise man, or a wise foolish man: for, as by nature he was endued with a great wit, so the same again was so mingled (saith he) with taunting and mocking, that it seemed to them that best knew him, that he thought nothing to be well spoken, except he had ministered some mock in the Communication; insomuch as, at his coming to the Tower, one of the officers demanding his upper garment for his fee, meaning his gown, he answered that he should have it, and took him his cap, saying it was the uppermost garment that he had. Likewise, even going to his death, at the Tower gate, a poor woman called unto him, and besought him to declare that he had certain evidences of hers in the time that he was in office, (which, after he was apprehended, she could not come by,) and that he would entreat that she might have them again, or else she was undone. He answered, "Good woman, have patience a little while, for the king is so good unto me, that even within this half hour he will discharge me of all businesses, and help thee himself." Also, when he went up the stair of the scaffold, he desired one of the sheriff's officers to give him his hand to help him up, and said, "When I come down again, let me shift for myself as well as I can." Also the hangman kneeled down to him, asking him forgiveness of his death, as the manner is; to whom he answered, "I forgive thee; but I promise thee that thou shalt never have honesty of the striking off my head, my neck is so short." Also, even when he should lay down his head on the block, he, having a great grey beard, stroked out his beard, and said to the hangman, "I pray you let me lay my beard over the block, lest you should cut it;" thus with a mock he ended his life.
There is no doubt but that the pope's Holiness hath hallowed and dignified those two persons long since for catholic martyrs: neither is it to be doubted, but after a hundred years expired, they shall be also shrined and porthosed, dying as they did in the quarrel of the Church of Rome, that is, in taking the bishop of Rome's part against their own ordinary and natural prince. Whereunto (because the matter asketh a long discourse, and a peculiar tractation) I have not in this place much to contend with Cope, my friend. This briefly for a memorandum may suffice; that if the causes of true martyrdom ought to be pondered, and not to be numbered, and if the end of martyrs is to be weighed by judgment, and not by affection; then the cause and quarrel of these men standing as it doth, and being tried by God's word, perhaps in the pope's kingdom they may go for martyrs, in whose cause they died; but certes in Christ's kingdom their cause will not stand, howsoever they stand themselves.
The like also is to be said of the three monks of the Charter-house, Exmew, Middlemore, and Neudigate, who the same year, in the month of June, were likewise attached and arraigned at Westminster, for speaking certain traitorous words against the king's crown and dignity; for which they were hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn: whom also, because Cope, my good friend, doth repute and accept in the number of holy catholic martyrs, here would be asked of him a question: What martyrs be they,who, standing before the judge, deny their own words and sayings, and plead not guilty, so as these Carthusians did? Whereby it appeareth, that they would neither have stood nor have died in that cause, as they did, if they might otherwise have escaped by denying. Wherefore, if my friend Cope had been so well advised in setting out his martyrs as God might have made him, he would first have seen the true records, and been sure of the ground of such matters, whereupon he so confidently pronounceth, and so censoriously controlleth others.
In the same cause and quarrel of treason also, the same year, a little before these aforesaid, in the month of May, were executed with the like punishment, John Houghton, prior of the charter-house in London; Robert Laurence, prior of the charter-house of Belvail; Austin Webster, prior of the charter-house of Exham.
Besides and with these priors suffered likewise at the same time, two other priests, one called Reginald, brother of Sion, the other named John Haile, vicar of Thistleworth. Divers other Charter-house monks also of London were then put in prison, to the number of nine or ten, and in the same prison died; for whom we will, the Lord willing, reserve another place, hereafter to treat of them more at large.
In the mean time, forasmuch as the aforesaid Cope, in his doughty dialogues, speaking of these nine worthies, doth commend them so highly, and especially the three priors above recited, here by the way I would desire Master Cope simply and directly to answer me to a thing or two that I would put to him; and first of this John Houghton, that angelical prior of the Charter-house, his old companion and acquaintance, of whom he thus writeth: Atqui cum Johannem ilium Houghtonum cogito, non tam hominem quam angelum in humana forma intueri mihi videor, cujus eminentes virtutes, divinas dotes, et heroicam animi magnitudinem, nemo unquam poterit satin pro dignitate explicare, &c. By these his own words it must needs be confessed, that the author of these dialogues, whosoever he was, had well seen and considered the form and personable stature, proportion, and shape, of his excellent body, with such admiration of his personage, that, "as he saith, as oft as I call the said John Houghton to mind, it seemeth to me even as though I saw an angel in the shape and form of a man: whose eminent virtues, moreover, whose divine gifts and heroical greatness of mind, no man," saith he, "may sufficiently express." And how old was this Master Cope then, would I know, when he saw and discerned all this? for, as I understand, Master Cope, being yet at this present scarce come to the age of forty years, he could not then be above nine years old (the other suffering A.D. 1535); in the which age, in my mind, Master Cope had small discretion to judge either of any such angelical proportion of this man's personage, or of his divine qualities and heroical celsitude of his mind; and yet he remembereth him in his dialogues: which thing, among many other probabilities, maketh me vehemently to suspect that these dialogues, printed in Antwerp, A.D. 1566, were brought over by Master Cope there to be printed, but were penned and framed by another PseudoCopus, whatsoever, or in what fleet soever, he was, unless my marks do greatly fail me. But as the case is of no great weight, so I let it pass, returning to other matters of greater importance.
Shortly after the overthrow of the pope, consequently began by little and little to follow the ruin of abbeys and religious houses in England, in a right order and method by God's divine providence. For neither could the fall of monasteries have followed after, unless that suppression of the pope had gone before; neither could any true reformation of the church have been attempted, unless the subversion of those superstitious houses had been joined withal.
Whereupon, the same year, in the month of October, the king, having then Thomas Cromwell of his council, sent Dr. Lee to visit the abbeys, priories, and nunneries in all England, and to set at liberty all such religious persons as desired to be free, and all others that were under the age of four and twenty years; providing withal, that such monks, canons, and friars as were dismissed, should have given them by the abbot or prior, instead of their habit, a secular priest's gown, and forty shillings of money, and likewise the nuns to have such apparel as secular women did then commonly use, and be suffered to go where they would; at which time also, from the said abbeys and monasteries were taken their chief jewels and relics.
When the king had thus established his supremacy, and all things were well quieted within the realm, he, like a wise prince, and having wise counsel about him, forecasting with himself what foreign dangers might fall unto him by other countries about, which were all as yet in subjection to the bishop of Rome, save only a few German princes, and misdoubting the malice of the pope, to provide therefore betimes for perils that might ensue, thought good to keep in, by all means possible, with other princes.
And first, to entertain the favour of the French king, who had been sick a little before, and now was lately recovered to health, in signification of public joy and friendship, the king commanded a solemn and famous procession to be ordained through the city of London, with the waits, and children of the grammar schools, with the masters and ushers in their array: then followed the orders of the friars and canons, and the priors with their pomp of copes, crosses, candlesticks, and vergers before them. After these followed the next pageant of clerks and priests of London, all in copes likewise. Then the monks of Westminster and other abbeys, with their glorious gardeviance of crosses, candlesticks, and vergers before them, in like sort. Last of all came the choir of St. Paul's, with their residentiaries; the bishop of London and the abbots following after in their pontificalibus. After these courses of the clergy went the companies of the city, with the lord mayor and aldermen in their best apparel, after their degrees. And lest it might be thought this procession of the church of London to make but a small or beggarly show, the furniture of the gay copes there worn, was counted to the number of seven hundred and fourteen. Moreover, to fill up the joy of this procession, and for the more high service to Almighty God, besides the singing choirs, and chanting of the priests, there lacked no minstrels withal, to pipe at the processions. Briefly, here lacked nothing else but only the ordnance to shoot off also. But because that is used in the processions at Rome, therefore, for difference' sake, the same is reserved only for the pope's own processions, and for none other, in the month of October.
This grand procession was appointed for a triumph or a thanksgiving for the late recovery of the French king's health, as is afore said.
Over and besides this, the king, to nourish and retain amity with kings and princes, (lest the pope, being exiled now out of England, should incite them to war against him,) directed sundry ambassadors and messengers with letters and instructions. To the emperor was sent Sir Francis Wyat, to the French king Sir Thomas Bryan, and Dr. Edward Foxe, who was also sent to the princes of Germany; to the Scottish king was sent Sir Ralph Sadler, gentleman of the king's privy-chamber.
In Scotland at the same time were cast abroad divers railing ballets and slanderous rhymes against the king of England, for casting off the lady dowager, and for abolishing the pope; for which cause the aforesaid Sir Ralph Sadler, being sent into Scotland with lessons and instructions how to address himself accordingly, after he had obtained access unto the king, and audience to be heard, first declareth the affectuous and hearty commendations from the king's Majesty, his Grace's uncle, and withal delivered his letters of credence: which done, after a few words of courtly entertainment, as occasion served him to speak, the said Sir Ralph Sadler, obtaining audience, thus began in the king his master's behalf to declare, as followeth
"Whereas there is nothing, after the glory of Almighty God, in this world so much to be tendered by kings, princes, or any honest persons, or so highly to be regarded and defended, as their honour, estimation, good fame, and name, which whosoever neglecteth is to be esteemed unnatural; and unless a man labour to avoid and extinguish the false reports, slanders, and defamations made of him by malicious persons, he may well be suspected in conscience to condemn himself; the king your uncle, considering the same, and hearing of sundry ballets, criminations, and infamous libels made and untruly forged and devised in Scotland against his Grace, by your Grace's subjects, not only upon trust to find with your Grace such natural affection, friendship, and amity, as the nearness of blood between uncle and nephew, necessitude of reverence, proximity both of kin and dominions together doth require; but also upon assurance that your Grace and wisdom will consider how these slanders and defamations, although they were but against a private person, whatsoever he were, most commonly redound and are imputed to the whole degree and estate; as the defamation of kings toucheth kings, and so of other degrees and dignities: doth send at this time to your Grace, his nephew, (others he might have sent more worthy; but me at this time, for lack of a better, hath he sent,) to desire, pray, and require your Grace, according as the nearness of blood, connexion of estate, and other things before expressed, of right and justice do require beseeching your Grace gently to weigh and balance, and well to ponder, the malice of these the said slanderers, and to call in again all the said defamatory ballets, libels, and other writings, punishing the authors and setters-forth thereof according to their demerits. And furthermore, to cause open proclamations to be made through your realm, that none of the inhabitants there shall, in any manner of wise, so misuse himself hereafter, upon such great pain and punishment as to your Grace and your council shall be thought convenient for the transgression thereof: so that others, by their correction, and by the fearful example of the penalty, may beware how to commit the like offence in time coming.
"The example of such slanders is very pernicious to all kings; for, by such slanders of other princes, the slanderers take boldness so to deal afterwards with their own king, as they have done with others; and the next step from such slanderous words is to attempt deeds, and so to fall to sedition; of the importance and danger whereof no man is ignorant.
"Wherefore your Grace, at the contemplation of your dear uncle, in tendering his proceedings, shall do well to follow therein the loving steps of his good brother and ally, the French king, who hath already at Rouen, and sundry places else, caused certain slanderous preachers to be sore punished; and further directed commissions through his realm for repressing the same. As also other princes shall be ready (his Majesty trusteth) to do the like in their dominions, if like occasion shall be given to require the same of them. In which so doing, your Gracemay be assured, in this your gentle dealing in that part, to win your uncle's most sincere and kind heart, to the increase of your amity and alliance, which as to you shall be most honourable, so shall it be no less profitable unto him.
"And thus to conclude with the first part of my narration, concerning the slanderous and defamatory libels, lest I should seem with prolixity of matter more than needs to abuse your Grace's silence, I will now descend to the other point of that which I have to utter unto your Grace, as touching the pope's nuncio, or messenger; of whose late arrival the king's Majesty, your uncle, having partly intelligence, but not certainly knowing the special cause of his coming from Rome, and yet fearing, by the common bruit and talk of your subjects, what his errand should be (that is, to practise some annoyance, by his pretended censures against the king's Majesty, your uncle); he therefore, premonishing your Grace before, as fearing the worst, most justly maketh his complaint thereof unto your Grace, his nephew, requiring you, that forasmuch as the aforesaid bruits and reports are slanderous to his Majesty, and seeing that neither the emperor, nor the French king, nor any other princes, have consented thereto, or understood thereof, the king's Majesty, therefore, your uncle, willing to stop those bruits and talks, desireth and most heartily prayeth your Grace, at his instant request, to vouchsafe to consider and weigh,
"First, The supremacy of princes, by the Holy Scripture granted unto him and other princes in earth, under Christ, upon their churches.
"Secondly, To weigh what the gospel and God's word calleth a church.
"Also what superstitions, idolatries, and blind abuses have crept into all realms, to the high displeasure of Almighty God, by reason thereof. "Fourthly, What is to be understood by the true censure or excommunication of the church, and how no such can be in the power of the bishop of Rome, or of any other man, against his Majesty, or any other prince; having so just ground to avoid from the root, and to abolish that execrable authority, which the bishop of Rome hath usurped, and doth usurp, upon all princes, to their great detriment and damage.
"As touching the consideration of which four points, although the king's Majesty, your uncle, doubteth not your Grace to be furnished and provided with sufficient knowledge, rightly to discern and judge upon the same; yet, if it shall so please your Grace further to know your uncle's mind touching the said points, I assure your Highness, in the behalf of your aforesaid uncle, his Majesty, that he will not stick to send unto you such learned, wise, and discreet men, as shall amply inform you thereof, and of such other things as your Grace, having once a smack thereof, shall think most worthy for a prince to know.
"His request therefore to your Highness is, that you will consider of what moment and importance it shall be unto your Grace, (having the Scots your subjects so evil instructed in the premises,) for you to assent and agree to any such censure, and so, by such example, to give such an upper-hand over yourself and other princes, to that usurper of Rome, as is very like hereafter to happen in other places of Christendom, wheresoever the true declaration of the truth and word of God shall have free course, to scourge them, unless they will adore, worship, and kiss the feet of that corrupt holiness, which desireth nothing else but pride, and the universal thrall of Christendom under Rome's yokes.
"But because the censures of that nuncio be not yet opened, but lie secret and uncertain under muttering, I shall cease further to proceed therein, till further occasion shall minister to me more certain matter to say and to judge. In the mean time, forasmuch as it is most certainly come to the intelligence of the king's Majesty, that the abbot of Arbroath should be chosen of late and elected to be a cardinal in this your realm of Scotland, his Majesty therefore, for the good love and hearty good will he beareth unto your Grace, as the uncle is bound unto the nephew, knowing that you as yet perceive not so well the hypocrisy and deceitful guile and malice of the Romans and their practices, as he himself doth, by his long experience; could not but, hearing thereof, advertise your Grace, that his advice is, you should not suffer any of your subjects to take upon him that red hat of pride, whereby he shall incontinently, the same being received, (unless he be of a contrary nature to any man that ever was yet of that sort,) not only be in manner discharged of his obedience, and become the bishop of Rome's true liege man; but also shall presume of his cardinalship to be your fellow, and to have the rule as well as you. Then should the bishop of Rome creep into your own very bosom, know all your secrets, and at last, unless you will be yoked and serve their pleasure in all points, your Grace is like to smart for it. The thing perchance, in the beginning, shall seem to your Grace very honourable and pleasant; but wisdom would, to beware of the tail, which is very black and bitter.
"His Majesty's father, and grandfather to your Grace, had a cardinal whereof he was weary, and never admitted others after his decease, knowing the importable pride of them. In like manner also his Highness, by the experience of one, hath utterly determined to avoid all the sort: so well his Grace hath known and experienced their mischief, yoke, and thraldom, that thereby is laid upon princes. By reason whereof, as his Highness is the more able by his own experience to inform your Grace, so of good will and mere propensity of heart, caused partly by nature and kin, partly by conjunction and vicinity of dominions adjoining so near together, he is no less ready to forewarn your Grace before, wishing that God will so work in your princely heart and noble stomach, that his Majesty's monition and friendly warning, as it proceedeth from a sincere affection and tender care of his part unto his nephew, so it may prevail and take place in your mind, that your Grace, wisely weighing with yourself, what supreme right princes have, and ought to have, over their churches and lands where they govern, and what little cause the bishop of Rome hath thereto, to proceed by unjust censures against them; your Grace may therein not only stand to the just defence of your dear uncle, but also may endeavour to follow his steps therein, and to take his counsel, which, he doubteth not, but shall redound, not only to your Grace's honour, to the benefit, weal, and profit of your realm and subjects; but, especially, to the glory of Almighty God, and advancement of his true religion.
"And thus have I expounded unto your Grace the sum of my errand and message from the king's Majesty, your uncle, who, as he would be glad to be advertised, by answer, of your Grace's purpose, mind, and intention in this behalf, so, for my part, according to my charge and duty, I shall be prepared and ready, with all diligence, to give mine attendance upon your pleasure for the same accordingly."
The king, considering the present state of his marriage, which was not yet well digested nor accepted in the courts of other princes, and also having intelligence of the strait amity intended by the marriages between the emperor and the French king, and also of the pope's inclination to pleasure the emperor; and further understanding of the order and meaning of the French king's council, not greatly favouring his purposes, sent therefore into France, for his ambassador, Edward Foxe, doctor of divinity, his chaplain and counsellor, with instructions and admonitions how to frame and attemper himself in those the king's affairs.
Furthermore, for the establishing of the king's succession to the imperial crown of this realm, for the suppression of the pope, and uniting the title of supremacy unto the king's crown, what order was therein taken, and what penalty was set upon the same, may appear by the act of parliament set forth A.D. 1534, in these words following:
"If any person or persons, after the first of February next, do maliciously imagine, invent, practise, or attempt to deprive the king of the dignity, title, or name of his royal estate, &c., that then every such person and persons so offending in any of the premises, their aiders, counsellors, consenters, and abettors, being thereof lawfully convicted, according to the laws and customs of this realm, shall be reputed, accepted, and adjudged traitors; and that every such offence in any the premises committed or done after the said first day of February, shall be reputed, accepted, and adjudged high treason; and the offenders therein, their aiders, consenters, counsellors, and abettors, being lawfully convicted of any such offence, shall have and suffer such pains of death and other penalties, as are limited and accustomed in cases of high treason."
Upon this and such other acts concluded in those parliaments, what stomach the pope took, what stir he kept, and what practices he wrought with Cardinal Pole, to stir up other nations to war against us; what difficulty also there was with the emperor, with the French king, and with the king of Scots, about the matter; and what labour was used on the king's part, to reconcile the princes for his own indemnity, to keep him from their wars and invasions, and especially to obtain the pope's approbation, and to avoid his censures of excommunication; and finally, what despiteful injuries and open wrongs the pope wrought against him, upon the which pope the king had bestowed so much money and great treasures before, all this, likewise, by the premises may appear.
Wherefore, to end now with these, and to go forward in our story, as the order and computation of years do give, we have now consequently to enter into the story of the good martyr of God, William Tyndale, being this present year falsely betrayed and put to death; which William Tyndale, as he was a special organ of the Lord appointed, and as God's mattock to shake the inward roots and foundation of the pope's proud prelacy; so the great prince of darkness, with his impious imps, having a special malice against him, left no way unsought how craftily to entrap him, and falsely to betray him, maliciously to spill his life, as by the process of his story here following may appear.