Ex-Classics Home Page




            In the month of May it was given out, and bruited abroad, that a solemn disputation should be holden at Cambridge, (as ye heard before in Master Ridley's letter.) between Master Bradford, Master Saunders, Master Rogers, and others of that side, and the doctors of both universities on the other side, like as had been in Oxford before, as you have heard. Whereupon the godly preachers who were in prison, having word thereof, albeit they were destitute of their books, neither were ignorant of the purpose of the adversaries, and how the cause was prejudiced before; also how the disputations were confusedly handled at Oxford: nevertheless, they thought not to refuse the offer of disputation, so that they might be quietly and indifferently heard. And therefore, wisely pondering the matter with themselves, by a public consent they directed out of prison a declaration of their mind by writing, the eighth of May. Wherein first, as touching the disputation, although they knew that they should do no good, where all things were so predetermined before; yet, nevertheless, they would not deny to dispute, so that the disputation might be either before the queen, or before the council, or before the parliament houses, or else if they might dispute by writing: for else, if the matter were brought to the doctors' handling in their own schools, they had sufficient proof they said, by the experience of Oxford, what little good would be done at Cambridge. And so consequently declaring the faith and doctrine of their religion, and exhorting the people withal to submit themselves with all patience and humility, either to the will or punishment of the higher powers, they appealed in the end from them to be their judges in this behalf; and so ended their protestation, the copy and contents whereof I thought not unfit here to be inserted.


A copy of a certain declaration drawn and sent abroad out of prison by Master Bradford, Master Saunders, and divers other godly preachers, concerning their disputation, and doctrine of their religion, as followeth:

            "Because we hear that it is determined of the magistrates, and such as be in authority, especially of the clergy, to send us speedily out of the prisons of the King's Bench, the Fleet, the Marshalsea, and Newgate, where at this present we are, and of long time some of us have been, not as rebels, traitors, seditious persons, thieves, or transgressors of any laws of this realm, inhibitions, proclamations, or commandments of the queen's Highness, or of any of the council's, (God's name be praised therefore,) but alonely for the conscience we have to God, and his most holy word and truth, upon most certain knowledge:-- because, we say, we hear that it is determined, we shall be sent to one of the universities of Cambridge or Oxford, there to dispute with such as are appointed in that behalf: in that we purpose not to dispute otherwise than by writing, except it may be before the queen's Highness and her council, or before the parliament houses; and therefore perchance it will be bruited abroad, that we are not able to maintain by the truth of God's word, and the consent of the true and catholic church of Christ, the doctrine we have generally and severally taught, and some of us have written and set forth; through which the godly and simple may be offended, and somewhat weakened: we have thought it our bounden duty now, while we may, by writing to publish and notify the causes why we will not dispute otherwise than is above-said, to prevent the offences which might come thereby:--

            "First, Because it is evidently known unto the whole world; that the determinations of both the universities in matters of religion, especially wherein we should dispute, are directly against God's word, yea, against their own determinations in the time of our late sovereign lord and most godly prince, King Edward: and further it is known they be our open enemies, and have already condemned our causes, before any disputation had of the same.

            "Secondly, Because the prelates and clergy do not seek either us or the verity, but our destruction and their glory. For if they had sought us, (as charity requireth,) then would they have called us forth hereabouts before their laws were so made, that frankly and without peril we might have spoken our consciences. Again, if they had sought for the verity, they would not have concluded of controversies before they had been disputed: so that it easily appeareth, that they seek their own glory and our destruction, and not us and the verity: and therefore we have good cause to refuse disputation, as a thing which shall not further prevail than to the setting forth of their glory, and the suppression of the verity.

            "Thirdly, Because the censors and judges (as we hear who they be) are manifest enemies to the truth, and that which worse is, obstinate enemies, before whom pearls are not to be cast, by the commandment of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and by his own example. That they be such, their doings of late at Oxford, and in the Convocation-house in October last past, do most evidently declare.

            "Fourthly, Because some of us have been in prison these eight or nine months, where we have had no books, no paper, no pen, no ink, or convenient place for study, we think we should do evil thus suddenly to descend into disputation with them, who may allege, as they list, the fathers and their testimonies; because our memories have not that which we have read so readily, as to reprove, when they shall report and wrest the authors to their purpose, or to bring forth that we may hate there for our advantage.

            "Fifthly, Because in disputation we shall not be permitted to prosecute our arguments, but be stopt when we should speak; one saying this, another that, the third his mind, &c. As was done to the godly learned fathers, especially Dr. Ridley, at Oxford, who could not be permitted to declare his mind and meaning of the propositions, and had oftentimes half a dozen at once speaking against him, always letting him to prosecute his argument, and to answer accordingly: we will not speak of the hissing, scoffing, and taunting, which wonderfully then was used. If on this sort, and much worse, they handled these fathers, much more will they be shamelessly bold with us, if we should enter into disputation with them.

            "Sixthly, Because the notaries, that shall receive and write the disputations, shall be of their appointment, and such as either do not or dare not favour the truth, and therefore must write either to please them, or else they themselves (the censors and judges we mean) at their pleasure will put to, and take from, that which is written by the notaries; who cannot, or must not, have in their custody that which they write, longer than the disputation endureth; as their doings at Oxford declare. No copy nor scroll could any man have, by their good will: for the censors and judges will have all delivered into their hands. Yea, if any man was seen there to write, as the report is, the same man was sent for, and his writings taken from him: so must the disputation serve only for the glory, not of God, but of the enemies of his truth.

            "For these causes we all think it so necessary not to dispute with them, as, if we did dispute, we should do that which they desire and purposely seek, to promote the kingdom of antichrist, and to suppress (as much as may be) the truth. We will not speak of the offence that might come to the godly, when they should hear, by the report of our enemies, our answers and arguments framed (you may be sure) for their fantasies, to the slandering of the verity.

            "Therefore we publish, and by this writing notify, unto the whole congregation and church of England, that for these aforesaid causes we will not dispute with them, otherwise than with the pen, unless it be before the queen's Highness and her council, or before the houses of the parliament, as is abovesaid. If they will write, we will answer, and by writing confirm and prove out of the infallible verity, even the very word of God, and by the testimony of the good and most ancient fathers in Christ's church, this our faith and every piece thereof, which hereafter we, in a sum, do write and send abroad purposely, that our good brethren and sisters in the Lord may know it. And, to seal up the same, we are ready. through God's help and grace, to give our lives to the halter or fire; or otherwise, as God shall appoint: humbly requiring, and in the bowels of our Saviour Jesus Christ beseeching, all that fear God, to behave themselves as obedient subjects to the queen's Highness and the superior powers, which are ordained of God under her; rather, after our example, to give their heads to the block, than in any point to rebel, or once to mutter against the Lord's anointed; we mean our sovereign lady Queen Mary: into whose heart we beseech the Lord of mercy plentifully to pour the wisdom and grace of his Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen!

            "First, We confess and believe all the canonical hooks of the Old Testament, and all the books of the New Testament, to be the very true word of Cod, and to be written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and are therefore to be heard accordingly, as the judge in all controversies and matters of religion.

            "Secondly, We confess and believe, that the catholic church, which is the spouse of Christ, as a most obedient and loving wife, doth embrace and follow the doctrine of these books in all matters of religion; and therefore is she to be heard accordingly: so that those which will not hear this church thus following and obeying the word of her Husband, we account as heretics and schismatics, according to this saying, If he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen.

            "Thirdly, we believe and confess all the articles of faith and doctrine set forth in the symbol of the apostles, which we commonly call the creed, and in the symbols of the councils of Nice, kept A. D. 324; of Constantinople, A. D. 384; of Ephesus, kept A. D. 432; of Chalcedon, kept A. D. 454; of Toledo, the first and fourth. Also in the symbols of Athanasius, Irenĉus, Tertullian, and of Damasus, (which was about the year of our Lord 376,) we confess and believe (we say) the doctrine of the symbols generally and particularly; so that whosoever doth otherwise, we hold the same to err from the truth.

            "Fourthly, We believe and confess concerning justification, that as it cometh only from God's mercy through Christ, so it is perceived and had of none which be of years of discretion, otherwise than by faith only: which faith is not an opinion, but a certain persuasion wrought by the Holy Ghost in the mind and heart of man, through whom as the mind is illuminated, so the heart is suppled to submit itself to the will of God unfeignedly; and so showeth forth an inherent righteousness, which is to be discerned, in the article of justification, from the righteousness which God endueth us withal, justifying us; although inseparably they go together. And this we do, not for curiosity or contention's sake, but for conscience' sake, that it might be quiet; which it can never be, if we confound without distinction forgiveness of sins, and Christ's justice imputed to us, with regeneration and inherent righteousness. By this we disallow the papistical doctrine of free-will, of works of supererogation, of merits, of the necessity of auricular confession, and satisfaction to God-ward.

            "Fifthly, We confess and believe concerning the exterior service of God, that it ought to be according to the word of God: and therefore, in the congregation, all things public ought to be done in such a tongue as may be most to edify; and not in Latin, where the people understand not the same.

            "Sixthly, We confess and believe that God only by Christ Jesus is to be prayed unto and called upon; and therefore we disallow invocation or prayer to saints departed this life.

            "Seventhly, we confess and believe, that as a man departeth this life, so shall he be judged in the last day generally, and in the mean season is entered either into the state of the blessed for ever, or damned for ever; and therefore is either past all help, or else needs no help of any in this life. By reason whereof we affirm purgatory, masses of Scala cœli, trentals, and such suffrages as the popish church doth obtrude as necessary, to be the doctrine of antichrist.

            "Eighthly, We confess and believe the sacraments of Christ, which be baptism and the Lord's supper, that they ought to be ministered according to the institution of Christ, concerning the substantial parts of them: and that they be no longer sacraments, than they be had in use, and used, to the end for which they were instituted.

            "And here we plainly confess, that the mutilation of the Lord's supper, and the subtraction of the one kind from the lay people, is antichristian. And so is the doctrine of transubstantiation of the sacramental bread and wine after the words of consecration, as they be called. Item, the adoration of the sacrament with honour due unto God. [Item,] the reservation and carrying about of the same. Item, the mass to be a propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and dead, or a work that pleaseth God.

            "All these we believe and confess to be antichrist's doctrine: as is the inhibition of marriage as unlawful to any state. And we doubt not, by God's grace, but we shall be able to prove all our confessions here to be most true by the verity of God's word, and consent of the catholic church, which followeth, and hath followed, the governance of God's Spirit, and the judgment of his word.

            "And this, through the Lord's help, we will do, either in disputation by word, before the queen's Highness and her council, or before the parliament houses, of whom we doubt not but to be indifferently heard, or else with our pens, whensoever we shall be thereto, by them that have authority, required and commanded.

            "In the mean season, as obedient subjects, we shall behave ourselves towards all that be in authority, and not cease to pray to God for them, that he would govern them all, generally and particularly, with the Spirit of wisdom and grace. And so we heartily desire and humbly pray all men to do, in no point consenting to any kind of rebellion or sedition against our sovereign lady the queen's Highness: but where they cannot obey, but they must disobey God, there to submit themselves with all patience and humility to suffer as the will and pleasure of the higher powers shall adjudge: as we are ready, through the goodness of the Lord, to suffer whatsoever they shall adjudge us unto, rather than we will consent to any doctrine contrary to this which we here confess; unless we shall be justly convinced thereof, either by writing or by word, before such judges as the queen's Highness and her council, or the parliament houses, shall appoint. For the universities and clergy have condemned our causes already by the bigger, but not by the better part, without all disputation of the same: and therefore most justly we may, and do, appeal from them to be our judges in this behalf, except it may be in writing; that to all men the matter may appear. The Lord of mercy endue us all with the Spirit of his truth, and grace of perseverance therein unto the end! Amen.
"The eighth day of May, A. D. 1554.
Robert St. David's; alias Robert Ferrar.
Glouc. Episcopus; alias John Hooper.

Rowland Taylor.
Edward Crome.
John Philpot.
John Rogers.
John Bradford.
Laurence Saunders.
John Wigorn, and
Edmund Laurence. J. P., and T. M."

            "To these things abovesaid, do I, Miles Coverdale, late of Exon, consent and agree, with these mine afflicted brethren being prisoners (mine own hand)."

            And thus much concerning this present declaration subscribed by these preachers; which was on the eighth of May.


Previous Next