207. JOHN ATHY, JOHN HEYWOOD, KERBY, AND ROGER CLARKE
In this year, touching matters of history, we read no great thing worthy of memory, but only of two persons, John Athy and John Heywood. Of which two, we find first John Athy to be indicted by the king's writ for certain words against the sacrament, which words in the indictment are specified to be these: "That he would not believe in the thing which the knave priest made, neither in that which Long's wife selleth; but only in God that is in heaven. And, when it was told him that God, through his word, could make it flesh and blood, he answered, 'So he might, if he would, turn it into a chicken's leg:' meaning the sacrament of the altar."
The same year also followed the recantation of John Heywood; who although he was attached for treason, for denying the king's supremacy, yet, using the clemency of the king, upon his better reformation and amendment, he made an open and solemn recantation in the face of all the people, abandoning and renouncing the pope's usurped supremacy, and confessing the king to be chief supreme head and governor of this Church of England, all foreign authority and jurisdiction being excluded.
In the year aforesaid, 1545, as there was no other thing done in England worthy to be noted, so now the order of story here requireth, by the course of years, next to infer the discourse of the troubles and persecutions which happened in Scotland against Master George Wisehart and divers other good men of the same country, about the same year of our Lord 1545, and somewhat before. But, because now we are come to the latter end almost of King Henry's reign, we will make an end (the Lord willing) with a few other English stories paining to that time; and, that finished, then set upon those matters of Scotland, joining them whole together. The tractation whereof thou shalt see, good reader, in the latter end and closing up of this king's reign.
Kerby, and Roger Clarke, of Suffolk, martyrs.oming now to the year of our Lord 1546, first passing over the priest, whose name was Saxy, who was hanged in the porter's lodge of Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and that, as it is supposed, not without the consent of the said bishop and the secret conspiracy of that bloody generation; to pass over also one Henry, with his servant, burned at Colchester; I will now proceed to the story of Kerby, and of Roger Clarke of Mendlesham, who were apprehended at Ipswich, A.D. 1546, the Saturday before Gang-Monday, and brought before the Lord Wentworth, with other commissioners appointed there to sit upon their examinations, judgments, and causes. The night before they were arraigned, a bill was set upon the town-house door, (by whom, it was unknown,) and brought the next day unto the Lord Wentworth; who answered, that it was good counsel: which bill, in the latter end, shall appear.
In the mean time Kerby and Roger, being in the jailer's house, named John Bird, an honest and a good man, (who had checks divers times at the bar, that he was more meet to be kept, than to be a keeper,) came in Master Robert Wingfield, son and heir of Humfrey Wingfield, knight, with Master Bruess of Wenham; who then, having conference with Kerby, (being then in a several chamber separate from the other,) Master Wingfield said to Kerby, "Remember the fire is hot, take heed of thine enterprise, that thou take no more upon thee than thou shalt be able to perform. The terror is great, the pain will be extreme, and life is sweet. Better it were betimes to stick to mercy, while there is hope of life, than rashly to begin, and then to shrink;" with such like words of persuasion. To whom he answered again, "Ah, Master Wingfield! be at my burning, and you shall say, There standeth a Christian soldier in the fire. For I know that fire and water, sword, and all other things, are in the hands of God, and he will suffer no more to be laid upon us, than he will give us strength to bear." "Ah, Kerby!" said Master Wingfield, "if thou be at that point, I will bid thee farewell; for, I promise thee, I am not so strong that I am able to burn," And so both the gentlemen, saying that they would pray for them, shook hands with them, and so departed.
Now first, touching the behaviour of Kerby and Roger when they came to the judgment-seat, the Lord Wentworth with all the rest of the justices there ready, the commissary also, by virtue of the statute ex officio, sitting next to the Lord Wentworth, but one between; Kerby and Roger lifted up their eyes and hands to heaven with great devotion in all men's eyes, making their prayers secretly to God for a space of time, while they might say the Lord's Prayer five or six times. That done, their articles were declared unto them with all circumstances of the law: and then it was demanded and inquired of them, Whether they believed, that after the words spoken by a priest, (as Christ spake them to his apostles,) there were not the very body and blood of Christ, flesh, blood, and bone, as he was born of the Virgin Mary, and no bread after?
Unto the which words they answered and said, No, they did not so believe; but that they did believe the sacrament which Christ Jesus did institute at his last supper, on Maundy Thursday at night, to his disciples, was only to put all men in remembrance of his precious death and blood-shedding for the remission of sins; and that there was neither flesh nor blood to be eaten with the teeth, but bread and wine; and yet more than bread and wine, for that it is consecrated to a holy use. Then, with much persuasions, both with fair means and threats besides, (if it would have served,) were these two poor men hardly laid to; but most at the hands of Foster, an inferior justice, not being learned in such knowledge. But these two continued both faithful and constant, choosing rather to die than to live; and so continued unto the end.
Then sentence was given upon them both, Kerby to be burned in the said town on the next Saturday, and Roger to be burned at Bury the Gang-Monday after. Kerby, when his judgment was given by the Lord Wentworth, with most humble reverence holding up his hands and bowing himself devoutly, he said, "Praised be Almighty God;" and so stood still without any more words.
Then did the Lord Wentworth talk secretly, putting hie head behind another justice that sat between them. The said Roger, perceiving that, said with a loud voice, "Speak out, my Lord! and if you have done any thing contrary to your conscience, ask God mercy; and we, for our parts, do forgive you: and speak not in secret, for ye shall come before a Judge, and then make answer openly, even before Him that shall judge all men;" with other like words.
The Lord Wentworth, somewhat blushing, and changing his countenance, (through remorse, as it was thought,) said, "I did speak nothing of you, nor have I done any thing unto you, but as the law is." Then were Kerby and Roger sent forth; Kerby to prison there, and Roger to St. Edmund's Bury. One of the two, bursting out with a loud voice, (Roger it is supposed,) thus spake with a vehemency: "Fight," said he, "for your God; for he hath not long to continue."
The next day, which was Saturday, about ten of the clock, Kerby was brought to the market-place, where a stake was ready, wood, broom, and straw, and did off his clothes unto his shirt, having a nightcap upon his head; and so was fastened to the stake with irons, there being in the gallery the Lord Wentworth, with the most part of all the justices of those quarters, where they might see his execution, how every thing should be done, and also might hear what Kerby did say; and a great number of people, about two thousand by estimation. There was also standing in the gallery by the Lord Went worth, Dr. Rugham, who was before a monk of Bury, and sexton of the house, having on a surplice, and a stole about his neck. Then silence was proclaimed, and the said doctor began to disable himself, as not meet to declare the Holy Scriptures, being unprovided because the time was so short; but that he hoped, in God's assistance, it should come well to pass.
All this while Kerby was trimming with irons and faggots, broom and straw, as one that should be married with new garments, nothing changing cheer nor countenance, but with a most meek spirit glorified God; which was wonderful to behold. Then Master Doctor, at last, entered into the sixth chapter of St. John, who, in handling that matter, so oft as he alleged the Scriptures, and applied them rightly, Kerby told the people that he said true, and bade the people believe him. But, when he did otherwise, he told him again, "You say not true; believe him not, good people." Whereupon, as the voice of the people was, they judged Dr. Rugham a false prophet. So when Master Doctor had ended his collation, he said unto Kerby, "Thou, good man! dost not thou believe that the blessed sacrament of the altar is the very flesh and blood of Christ, and no bread, even as he was born of the Virgin Mary?" Kerby, answering boldly, said, "I do not so believe." "How doest thou believe?" said the doctor. Kerby said, "I do believe that in the sacrament that Jesus Christ instituted at his last supper, on Maundy Thursday, to his disciples, (which ought of us likewise to be done,) is the death and passion, and his blood-shedding for the redemption of the world, to be remembered: and (as I said before) yet bread, and more than bread; for that it is consecrated to a holy use." Then was Master Doctor in his dumps, and spake not one word more to Kerby after.
Then said the under-sheriff to Kerby, "Hast thou any thing more to say?" "Yea, sir," said he, "if you will give me leave." "Say on," said the sheriff.
Then Kerby, taking his nightcap from his head, put it under his arm, as though it should have done him service again; but, remembering himself, he cast it from him, and lifting up his hands, he said the hymn Te Deum, and the Belief, with other prayers in the English tongue. The Lord Wentworth, while Kerby was thus doing, did shroud himself behind one of the posts of the gallery, and wept, and so did many others. Then said Kerby, "I have done: you may execute your office, good Master Sheriff." Then fire was set to the wood, and with a loud voice he called unto God, knocking on his breast, and holding up his hands, so long as his remembrance would serve, and so ended his life; the people giving shouts, and praising God with great admiration of his constancy, being so simple and unlettered.
On the Gang-Monday, A.D. 1546, about ten of the clock, Roger Clarke of Mendlesham was brought out of prison, and went on foot to the gate, called Southgate, in Bury, and, by the way, the procession met with them; but he went on, and would not bow cap nor knee, but with most vehement words rebuked that idolatry and superstition, the officers being much offended. And without the gate, where was the place of execution, the stake being ready, and the wood lying by, he came, and kneeled down, and said Magnificat, in the English tongue, making as it were a paraphrase upon the same, wherein he declared how that the blessed Virgin Mary, who might as well rejoice in pureness, as any others, yet humbled herself to her Saviour. "And what sayest thou, John Baptist," said he, "the greatest of all men's children? Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." And thus, with a loud voice, he cried unto the people, while he was in fastening unto the stake, and then the fire was set to him, where he suffered pains unmercifully; for the wood was green, and would not burn; so that he was choked with smoke. And, moreover, being set in a pitch-barrel, with some pitch sticking still by the sides, he was therewith sore pained, till be had got his feet out of the barrel. And, at length, one standing by took a faggot-stick, and striking at the ring of iron about his neck, so pashed him, and struck him belike upon the head, that he shrank down on the one side into the fire; and so was dissolved.
In the beginning of this story of Kerby and Roger, mention was made of a certain bill put upon the Town-house door, and brought the next day to the Lord Wentworth, the words of which bill were these.
The bill set upon the Town-house door in Ipswich.
"Judge rightly, ye sons of men: yet, when ye shall judge, minister your justice with mercy.
"A fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God: be ye learned, therefore, in true knowledge, ye that judge the earth; lest the Lord be angry with you.
"The blood of the righteous shall be required at your hands. What though the veil hanged before Moses' face; yet at Christ's death it fell down.
"The stones will speak, if these should hold their peace: therefore harden not your hearts against the verity.
"For fearfully shall the Lord appear in the day of vengeance to the troubled in conscience. No excuse shall there be of ignorance, but every vat shall stand on his own bottom. Therefore have remorse in your conscience; fear him that may kill both body and soul.
"Beware of innocent blood-shedding; take heed of justice ignorantly ministered; work discreetly as the Scripture doth command: look to it, that ye make not the truth to be forsaken.
"We beseech God to save our king, King Henry the Eighth, that he be not led into temptation. So be it."