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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 284. JOHN ARDELEY AND JOHN SIMSON.



The story of John Ardeley and John Simson, martyrs, of the parish of Wigborough the Great, in Essex.

ITH Master Cardmaker andcJohn Warne, upon the same day, and in the same company, and for the same cause, were also condemned John Ardeley and John Simson; which was the twenty-fifth day of May. But before we come to the story of them, first here is to be noted the copy of the king and queen's letter, directed from the court the same day, and sent by a post early in the morning to the bishop, in tenor and form as followeth.

            "To the right reverend father in God, our right trusty and well-beloved, the bishop of London.

            "Right reverend father in God, right trusty and well-beloved, we greet you well. And whereas of late we addressed our letters to the justices of peace within every of the counties of this our realm, whereby, amongst other instructions given them for the good order and quiet government of the country round about them, they are willed to have a special regard unto such disordered persons as (forgetting their duties towards God and us) do lean to any erroneous and heretical opinions, refusing to show themselves conformable to the catholic religion of Christ's church; wherein if they cannot by good admonitions and fair means reform them, they are willed to deliver them to the ordinary, to be by him charitably travailed withal, and removed (if it may be) from their naughty opinions; or else, if they continue obstinate, to be ordered according to the laws provided in that behalf: understanding now, to our no little marvel, that divers of the said disordered persons, being by the justices of peace, for their contempt and obstinacy, brought to the ordinaries to be used as is aforesaid, are either refused to be received at their hands, or, if they be received, are neither so travailed with as Christian charity requireth, nor yet proceeded withal according to the order of justice, but are suffered to continue in their errors, to the dishonour of Almighty God, and dangerous example of others; like as we find this matter very strange, so we have thought convenient both to signify this our knowledge, and therewith also to admonish you to have in this behalf such regard henceforth to the office of a good pastor and bishop, as when any such offenders shall be by the said officers or justices of peace brought unto you, you to use your good wisdom and discretion in procuring to remove them from their errors, if it may be; or else in proceeding against them (if they shall continue obstinate) according to the order of the laws; so as through your good furtherance, both God's glory may be better advanced, and the commonwealth more quietly governed.
            "Given under our signet, at our honour of Hampton Court, the twenty-fourth of May, the first and second years of our reigns."

            This letter thus coming from the court to the bishop, made him the more earnest and hasty to the condemnation, as well of others, as of these men, of whom now we have presently to entreat, of John Simson, I mean, and John Ardeley; which being both of one country, and of one town together, and of one trade, that is, being both husbandmen in the town of Wigborough in Essex, and also almost both of one age, save that Simson was of the age of thirty-four, the other of thirty, were brought up both together by the under-sheriff of Essex, to Bonner, bishop of London, upon the accusation (as in that time it was called) of heresy.

            As touching the order and manner of their examinations before the bishop; as the articles ministered against them were much like, so their answers again unto the same were not much discrepant in manner and form; as out of the bishop's own registers here followeth expressed.

            "I. First, That thou John Simson, [or John Ardeley,] husbandman, of the age of thirty-four years or thereabout, wast and art of the parish of Great Wigborough, within the diocese of London; and thou hast not believed, nor dost believe, that there is here in earth one catholic and universal whole church, which doth hold and believe all the faith and religion of Christ, and all the necessary articles and sacraments of the same.

            "II. Item, That thou hast not believed, nor dost believe, that thou art necessarily bounden, under the pain of damnation of thy soul, to give full faith and credence unto the said catholic and universal church, and to the religion of the same, in all necessary points of the said faith and religion, without wavering or doubting in the said faith or religion, or in any part thereof.

            "III. Item, That thou hast not believed, nor dost believe, that that faith and religion, which both the Church of Rome, Italy, Spain, England, France, Ireland, Scotland, and all other churches in Europe, being true members and parts of the said catholic and universal church, do believe and teach, is both agreeing with the said catholic and universal church, and the faith and religion of Christ, and also is the very true faith and religion which all Christian people ought to believe, observe, follow, and keep; but, contrariwise, thou hast believed, and dost believe, that that faith and religion, which the said Church of Rome, and all the other churches aforesaid, have heretofore believed, and do now believe, is false, erroneous, and naught, and in no wise ought to be believed, observed, kept, and followed of any Christian man.

            "IV. Item, That albeit it be true, that in the sacrament of the altar there is in substance the very body and blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine, and albeit that it be so believed, taught, and preached undoubtedly in the said Church of Rome, and all other the churches aforesaid, yet thou hast not so believed, nor dost so believe; but, contrariwise, thou hast and dost believe firmly and stedfastly, that there is not in the said sacrament of the altar, under the said forms of bread and wine, the very substance of Christ's body and blood, but that there is only the substance of material and common bread and wine, with the forms thereof; and that the said material and common bread and wine are only the signs and tokens of Christ's body and blood, and by faith to he received, only for a remembrance of Christ's passion and death, without any such substance of Christ's body and blood at all.

            "V. Item, That thou hast believed and taught, and thou hast openly spoken, and to thy power maintained and defended, and so dost believe, think, maintain, and defend, that the very true receiving and eating of Christ's body and blood, is only to take material and common bread, and to break it, and to distribute it amongst the people; remembering thereby the passion and death of Christ only.

            "VI. Item, That thou hast likewise believed, taught, and spoken, that the mass now used in this realm of England, and other the churches aforesaid, is abominable and naught, and full of idolatry, and is of the ordinance of the pope, and not of the institution of Christ, and hath no goodness in it, saving the Gloria in excelsis, and the Epistle and the Gospel; and that therefore thou hast not, nor wilt not, come to be present at the mass, nor receive the sacrament of the altar, or any other sacrament of the church, as they are now used in this realm of England, and other the churches aforesaid.

            "VII. Item, That thou hast in times past believed precisely, and obstinately affirmed and said, and so lost now believe and think, that auricular confession is not needful to be made unto the priest, but it is a thing superfluous and vain, and ought only to be made to God, and to none other person: and likewise thou hast condemned as superfluous, vain, and unprofitable, all the ceremonies of the church, and the service of the same, and hast said, that no service in the church ought to be said but in the English tongue; and if it be otherwise said, it is unlawful and naught."


The answers of John Simson, and also of John Ardeley, to the foresaid articles.

            "To the first, they believe, that here in earth there is one catholic and universal holy church, which doth hold and believe as is contained in the first article; and that this church is dispersed and scattered abroad throughout the whole world.

            "To the second, they believe, that they be bound to give faith and credence unto it, as is contained in the second article.

            "To the third, as concerning the faith and religion of the Church of Rome, of Italy, Spain, France, Ireland, Scotland, and other churches in Europe, they say, they have nothing to do with that faith and religion: but as concerning the faith and religion of England, that if the said Church of England be ruled and governed by the Word of Life, then the Church of England hath the faith and religion of the catholic church, and not otherwise; and do say also, that if the Church of England were ruled by the Word of Life, it would not go about to condemn them and others of this heresy.

            "To the fourth they answer, that in the sacrament, commonly called the sacrament of the altar, there is very bread and very wine, not altered or changed in substance in any wise; and that he that receiveth the said bread and wine, doth spiritually and by faith only receive the body and blood of Christ; but not the very natural body and blood of Christ in substance under the forms of bread and wine.

            "To the fifth they say, they have answered, answering to the said fourth article, and yet nevertheless they say, that they have believed, and do believe, that in the sacrament of the altar there is not the very substance of Christ's body and blood, but only the substance of the natural bread and wine.

            "To the sixth they say, that they believe, that the mass is of the pope, and not of Christ; and therefore it is not good, nor having in it any goodness, saving the Gloria in excelsis, the Epistle and Gospel, the Creed, and the Pater-noster; and for this cause they say they have not, nor will not, come and hear mass.

            "To the seventh, John Ardeley answereth and saith, that he believeth the contents of the same to be true; but John Simson doth answer, that he is not as yet fully resolved with himself, what answer to make thereunto; and further, that as touching the common and daily service said and used in the church, he saith, that he never said, that service in the church ought to be said but in the English tongue, nor yet he never said, that if it be otherwise said and used than in English, it is unlawful and naught.
            "JOHN ARDELEY and JOHN SIMSON."

            Thus these articles being to them objected, and their answers made unto the same, as before, the bishop, according to the old trade of his consistory court, respited them to the afternoon, bidding them to make their appearance the said day and place, between the hours of two and three. At what time the said bishop, repeating again the said articles unto them, and beginning with John Ardeley, did urge and solicitate him, according to his manner of words, to recant.

            To whom John Ardeley again, constantly standing to his professed religion, gave answer in words as followeth "My Lord," quoth he, "neither you, nor any other of your religion, is of the catholic church; for you be of a false faith: and I doubt not but you shall be deceived at length, bear as good a face as ye can. Ye will shed the innocent blood, and you have killed many, and yet go about to kill more." &c.

            And added further, saying, "If every hair of my head were a man, I would suffer death in the opinion and faith that I am now in." These with many other words he spake. Then the bishop yet demanded if he would relinquish his erroneous opinions, (as he called them,) and be reduced again to the unity of the church. He answered as followeth, "No! God foreshield that I should so do, for then I should lose my soul."

            After this, the said bishop, asking John Ardeley (after his formal manner) if he knew any cause why he should not have sentence condemnatory against him, so read the condemnation; as he also did against John Simson, standing likewise in the same cause and constancy with John Ardeley: which was done the twenty-fifth day of May. And so were they both committed to the secular power, (that is, to the hands of the sheriffs,) to be conveyed to the place where they should be executed. But before I come to their execution, here is not to be passed a thing not unworthy the looking upon, which happened in the closing up the examination of these two innocent martyrs of God, which is this:

            At the time of the examination of this Simson and John Ardeley aforesaid, there was assembled such a great multitude of people, that because the consistory was not able to hold them, they were fain to stand in the church, near about the said consistory, waiting to see the prisoners when they should depart. It happened in the mean time, that the bishop, being set in a heat with the stout and bold answers of the said two prisoners, (especially of John Simson,) burst out in his loud and angry voice, and said, "Have him away! have him away!"

            Now the people in the church, hearing these words, and thinking (because the day was far spent) that the prisoners had their judgment, they, being desirous to see the prisoners had to Newgate, severed themselves, one running one way, another another way, which caused such a noise in the church, that they in the consistory were all amazed, and marvelled what it should mean: wherefore the bishop also, being somewhat afraid of this sudden stir, asked what there was to do. The standers-by answering said, that there was like to be some tumult; for they were together by the ears.

            When the bishop heard this, by and by his heart was in his heels, and leaving his seat, he with the rest of the court betook them to their legs, hastening with all speed possible to recover the door that went into the bishop's house: but the rest, being somewhat lighter of foot than my Lord, did sooner recover the door, and thronging hastily to get in, kept the bishop still out, and cried, "Save my Lord! save my Lord!" but meaning yet first to save themselves, if any danger should come; whereby they gave the standers-by good matter to laugh at; resembling in some part a spectacle not much unlike to the old stagers at Oxford, worse feared than hurt, when the church there was noised to be set on fire, whereof ye may read before. But of this matter enough.

            Now John Simson and John Ardeley being delivered (as is aforesaid) to the sheriffs, were shortly after sent down from London to Essex, where both they in one day (which was about the tenth of June) were put to death, albeit in several places; for John Simson suffered at Rochford; John Ardeley the same day was had to Rayleigh, where he finished his martyrdom most quietly in the quarrel of Christ's gospel.


A note of John Ardeley.

            For the better consideration of the rigorous cruelty of these catholic days, this is furthermore not unworthy of all men to be noted and known to all posterity, concerning the examinations of this Ardeley and his company, how that they, being brought before the commissioners, were by them greatly charged of stubbornness and vain-glory. Unto whom they answered in defence of their own simplicity, that they were content willingly to yield to the queen all their goods and lands, so that they might be suffered to live under her, in keeping their conscience free from all idolatry and papistical religion. Yet this would not be granted, although they had offered all to their heart-blood; so greedy and so thirsty be these persecutors of Christian blood. The Lord give them repentance if it be his will, and keep from them the just reward of such cruel dealing! Amen.


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