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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 306. GEORGE TANKERFIELD


            George Tankerfield of London, cook, born in the city of York, about the age of twenty-seven or twenty-eight years, was in King Edward's days a very papist, till the time Queen Mary came in; and then, perceiving the great cruelty used of the pope's side, was brought into a misdoubt of their doings, and began (as he said) in his heart to abhor them. And as concerning the mass, whereof he had but a doubtful opinion before, and much striving with himself in that case, at length he fell to prayer, desiring God in mercy to open to him the truth, that he might be thoroughly persuaded therein, whether it were of God, or not: if not, that he might utterly hate it in his heart, and abhor it: which, according to his prayer, the Lord mercifully heard, working daily more and more in him to detest and abhor the same. And so he was moved to read the Testament, whereby (as is said) the Lord lightened his mind with the knowledge of the truth, working lively faith in him to believe the same, and utterly to detest all papistry; and so he came no more to their doings. And not only that, but also this lively faith, saith he, kindled such a flame in him, as would not be kept in, but utter itself by confession thereof, reproving his own former doings to his friends, exhorting them likewise to convert and turn to the truth with him; and thus he began to be smelled out among them, till at last he was sent for as followeth.

            It pleased God to strike him with sickness, whereby he lay long sick; and, on a certain day, to take the air abroad, he rose up, and went and walked into the Temple fields to see the shooters. In the mean season came Beard home to his house, and inquired for him, pretending to his wife, that he came only to have him to come and dress a banquet at the Lord Paget's. The wife, because of his apparel, (which was very brave,) took him to he some honest gentleman, and with all speed prepared herself to fetch her husband, having a good hope he should now earn some money: and, lest this gentleman should be annoyed with tarrying, she fetched him a cushion to set him soft, and laid a fair napkin before him, and set bread thereon, and came to her husband; who, when he heard it, said, "A banquet, woman! Indeed it is such a banquet as will not be very pleasant to the flesh; but God's will be done." And, when he came home, he saw who it was, and called him by his name; which when his wife perceived, and wherefore he came, she, like a tall woman, would play Peter's part, and instead of a sword, took a spit, and had run him through, had not the constable, which Beard had sent for by his man, come in withal, who rescued him; yet she sent a brickbat after him, and hit him on the back. And so Tankerfield was delivered to the constable, and brought to Newgate about the last day of February, anno 1555, by the said Beard, yeoman of the guard, and Simon Ponder, pewterer, constable of St. Dunstan's in the West, sent in by Roger Chomley, knight, and by Dr. Martin.

Illustration -- The Arrest of George Tankerfield

            Tankerfield, thus being brought to prison by his adversaries, at length, with the other above named, was brought to his examination before Bonner; who, after his accustomed manner, ordered his articles and positions unto him; the copy and tenor of which his ordinary articles ye may read above expressed.

            "To these articles, as above rehearsed, he answered again, constantly declaring his mind both touching auricular confession, and also the sacrament of the popish altar, and likewise of the mass, &c.: First, that he was not confessed to any priest five years past, nor to any other but only to God; and further denying that he would hereafter be confessed to any priest, for that he found it not in Christ's book, and took it only to be a council.

            "And concerning the sacrament, commonly called, here in England, of the altar, he confessed that he neither had nor did believe, that in the said sacrament there is the real body and blood of Christ; because that the body is ascended into heaven, and there doth sit at the right hand of God the Father.

            "And moreover he said, that the mass now used in the Church of England was naught, and full of idolatry and abomination, and against the word of God; affirming also, that there are but two sacraments in the church of Christ, baptism and the supper of the Lord, &c. And to these assertions, he said, he would stand: and so he did to the end."

            And when at last the bishop began to read the sentence, exhorting him before with many words to revoke his professed opinion, (which they called damnable and heretical,) he, notwithstanding, resisted all contrary persuasions, answering the bishop again in this form of words "I will not," said he, "forsake mine opinions, except you, my Lord, can repel them by Scriptures; and I care not for your divinity, for you condemn all men, and prove nothing against them." And after many fair words of exhortation, which Bonner then used (after his ordinary manner) to convert, or rather pervert him, he answered boldly again, saying moreover, that the church, whereof the pope is supreme head, is no part of Christ's catholic church: and adding thereunto, and pointing to the bishop, spake to the people, saying, "Good people, beware of him, and such as he is; for these be the people that deceive you," &c.

            These, with other words more, he spake; whereupon the bishop, reading the sentence of his popish condemnation, gave him to the secular power.

            And so this blessed servant of God was had to St. Alban's, and there with much patience and constancy ended his life, the twenty-sixth day of August, for the defence of the truth, which at length will have the victory.


Certain notes concerning George Tankerfield, after he came to suffer martyrdom at St. Alban's.

            "Imprimis, he was brought unto St. Alban's by the high sheriff of Hertfordshire, Master Edward Brocket, esquire, and one Pulter of Hitchen, which was under sheriff.

            "Item, their inn was the Cross-keys, where there was great concourse of people to see and hear the prisoner: among the which multitude some were sorry to see so godly a man brought to be burned; others praised God for his constancy and perseverance in the truth. Contrariwise some there were which said, it was pity he did stand in such opinions: and others, both old women and men, cried against him; one called him heretic, and said it was pity that he lived. But George Tankerfield did speak unto them so effectually out of the word of God, lamenting of their ignorance, and protesting unto them his unspotted conscience, that God did mollify their hardened hearts, insomuch that some of them departed out of the chamber with weeping eyes.

            "Item, there came unto him a certain schoolmaster, which retained unto Sir Thomas Pope, knight. This man had a certain communication with George Tankerfield the day before he was coming towards St. Alban's, as touching their sacrament of the altar, and other points of papistical religion: but as he urged Tankerfield with the authority of the doctors, wresting them after his own will; so on the other side Tankerfield answered him mightily by the Scriptures, not wrested after the mind of any man, but being interpreted after the will of the Lord Jesus, &c. So that as he would not allow such allegations as Tankerfield brought out of the Scriptures without the opinions of the doctors; so again Tankerfield would not credit his doctrine to be true, except he could confirm it by the Scriptures. In the end Tankerfield prayed him that he would not trouble him in such matters, for his conscience was established, &c. And so he departed from him, wishing him well, and protesting that he meant him no more hurt than his own soul.

            "Item, when the hour drew on apace that he should suffer, he desired the wine-drawer that he might have a pint of Malmsey and a loaf, that he might eat and drink that in remembrance of Christ's death and passion, because he could not have it ministered unto him by others in such manner as Christ commanded; and then he kneeled down, making his confession unto the Lord with all which were in the chamber with him. And after that he had prayed earnestly unto the Lord, and had read the institution of the holy supper by the Lord Jesus out of the evangelists, and out of St. Paul, he said, 'O Lord, thou knowest it, I do not this to derogate authority from any man, or in contempt of those which are thy ministers, but only because I cannot have it ministered according to thy word,' &c. And when he had spoken these and such-like words, he received it with giving of thanks.

            "Item, when some of his friends willed him to eat some meat, he said he would not eat that which should do others good that had more need, and that had longer time to live than he.

            "Item, he prayed his host to let him have a good fire in the chamber: he had so, and then he, sitting on a form before the fire, put off his shoes and hose, and stretched out his leg to the flame; and when it had touched his foot, he quickly withdrew his leg, showing how the flesh did persuade him one way, and the spirit another way. The flesh said, 'O thou fool, wilt thou burn and needest not?' The spirit said, 'Be not afraid, for this is nothing, in respect of fire eternal.' The flesh said, 'Do not leave the company of thy friends and acquaintance which love thee, and will let thee lack nothing.' The spirit said, 'The company of Jesus Christ and his glorious presence doth exceed all fleshly fiends.' The flesh said, 'Do not shorten thy time, for thou mayest live, if thou wilt, much longer.' The spirit said, 'This life is nothing unto the life in heaven, which lasteth for ever,' &c. And all this time the sheriffs were at a certain gentleman's house at dinner, not far from the town, whither also resorted knights and many gentlemen out of the country, because his son was married that day; and until they returned from dinner the prisoner was left with his host to be kept and looked unto. And George Tankerfield all that time was kindly and lovingly entreated of his host; and, considering that his time was short, his saying was, that although the day was never so long, yet at the last it ringeth to even-song.

            "Item, about two of the clock, when the sheriffs were returned from dinner, they brought George Tankerfield out of his inn unto the place where he should suffer, which is called Romeland, being a green place nigh unto the west end of the abbey church: unto the which when he was come, he kneeled down by the stake that was set up for him, and after he had ended his prayers he arose, and with a joyful faith he said, that although he had a sharp dinner, yet he hoped to have a joyful supper in heaven.

            "Item, while the faggots were set about him, there came a priest unto him, and persuaded him to believe on the sacrament of the altar, and he should be saved. But George Tankerfield cried out vehemently, and said, 'I defy the whore of Babylon; I defy the whore of Babylon: fie on that abominable idol. Good people, do not believe him; good people, do not believe him.' And then the mayor of the town commanded to set fire to the heretic, and said, if he had but one load of faggots in the whole world, he would give them to burn him. There was a certain knight by, who went unto Tankerfield, and took him by the hand, and said, 'Good brother, be strong in Christ:' this he spake softly; and Tankerfield said, 'O sir, I thank you, I am so; I thank God.' Then fire was set unto him, and he desired the sheriff and all the people that they would pray for him; the most part did so. And so, embracing the fire, he hathed himself in it, and, calling on the name of the Lord Jesus, he was quickly out of pain," &c.

            After the martyrdom was ended, and that he was fallen asleep in the Lord, there were some superstitious old women who did blasphemously say, that the devil was so strong with him and all such heretics as he was, that they could not feel any pain almost, nor yet be sorry for their sins.


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