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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 341. PERSECUTION IN SUFFOLK


            After the death of these above rehearsed, were three men burnt at Beccles in Suffolk, in one fire, about the twenty-first of May, anno 1556, whose names are here specified: Thomas Spicer of Winston, labourer; John Denny, and Edmund Poole. This Thomas Spicer was a single man, of the age of nineteen years, and by vocation a labourer, dwelling in Winston in the county of Suffolk, and there taken in his master's house in summer, about or soon after the rising of the sun, (being in his bed,) by James Ling and John Keretch of the same town, and William Davies of Debenham in the said county.

            The occasion of his taking was, for that he would not go to their popish church to hear mass and receive their idol, at the commandment of Sir John Tyrrel, knight, of Gipping-hall in Suffolk, and certain other justices there, who sent both him and them to Eye dungeon in Suffolk, till at length they were all three together brought before Dunning, then chancellor of Norwich, and Master Mings the registrar, sitting at the town of Beccles, to be examined.

            And there the said chancellor, persuading what he could to turn them from the truth, could by no means prevail of his purpose. Wherefore, minding in the end to give sentence on them, he burst out in tears, entreating them to remember themselves, and to turn again to the holy mother church, for that they were deceived and out of the truth, and that they should not wilfully cast away themselves, with such-like words.

            Now as he was thus labouring them, and seemed very loth to read the sentence, (for they were the first that he condemned in that diocese,) the registrar there sitting by, being weary belike of tarrying, or else perceiving the constant martyrs to be at a point, called upon the chancellor in haste to rid them out of the way, and to make an end. At the which words the chancellor read the condemnation over them with tears, and delivered them to the secular power.


The articles, whereupon they were condemned.

            "The articles objected to these, and commonly to all others condemned in that diocese by Dr. Hopton bishop of Norwich, and by Dunning his chancellor, were these:

            "First, It was articulate against them, that they believed not the pope of Rome to be supreme head immediately under Christ in earth of the universal catholic church.

            "2. Item, That they believed not holy bread and holy water, ashes, palms, and all other like ceremonies used in the church, to be good and laudable for stirring up the people to devotion.

            "3. Item, That they believed not, after the words of consecration spoken by the priest, the very natural body of Christ, and no other substance of bread and wine, to be in the sacrament of the altar.

            "4. Item, That they believed it to be idolatry to worship Christ in the sacrament of the altar.

            "5. Item, That they took bread and wine in remembrance of Christ's passion.

            "6. Item, That they would not follow the cross in procession, nor be confessed to a priest.

            "7. Item, That they affirmed no mortal man to have in himself free-will to do good or evil."

            For this doctrine and articles above prefixed, these three, as is aforesaid, were condemned by Dr. Dunning and committed to the secular power, Sir John Silliard being the same time high sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. And the next day following upon the same, they were all burnt together in the said town of Beccles. Whereupon it is to be thought, that the writ De comburendo was not yet come down, nor could be, the lord chancellor, Bishop Heath, being the same time at London: which if it be true, then it is plain, that both they went beyond their commission, that were the executioners, and also the clergy, which were the instigators thereof, cannot make good that they now pretend; saying, that they did nothing but by law. But this let the Lord find out when he seeth his time.

            In the mean time, while these good men were at the stake, and had prayed, they said their belief; and when they came to the reciting of the catholic church, Sir John Silliard spake to them: "That is well said, sirs," quoth he, "I am glad to hear you say, you do believe the catholic church. That is the best word I have heard of you yet." To the which his sayings Edmund Poole answered, that though they believed the catholic church, yet did they not believe in their popish church, which is no part of Christ's catholic church, and therefore no part of their belief.

            When they rose from prayer, they all went joyfully to the stake; and being bound thereto, and the fire burning about them, they praised God in such an audible voice, that it was wonderful to all those which stood by and heard them.

            Then one Robert Bacon, dwelling in the said Beccles, a very enemy of God's truth, and a persecutor of his people, being there present within hearing thereof, willed the tormentors to throw on faggots to stop the knaves' breaths, as he termed them; so hot was his burning charity. But these good men, not regarding their malice, confessed the truth, and yielded their lives to the death for the testimony of the same, very gloriously and joyfully. The which their constancy in the like cause the Lord grant we may imitate and follow unto the end, (whether it be death or life,) to glorify the name of Christ, Amen!

            And forasmuch as we have here entered into the persecution of Norfolk and Suffolk, it cometh therefore to mind, by occasion hereof, briefly to touch, by the way, some part (for the whole matter cannot be so expressed as it was done) touching the troubles of the towns of Winston and Mendlesham in Suffolk, raised and stirred by the said Sir John Tyrrel and other justices there of the like affinity. The sum and effect of which briefly is thus signified to me by writing.

            By the procurement of Sir John Tyrrel, knight, and others of his colleagues, there were persecuted out of the town of Winston in Suffolk, these persons hereafter following, anno 1556: Mrs. Alice Twaites, gentlewoman, of the age of threescore years and more, and two of her servants; Humphrey Smith and his wife; William Catchpoole and his wife; John Mauling and his wife; Nicholas Burlingham and his wife; and one Rought and his wife.

            Such as were persecuted and driven out of the town of Mendlesham in the county of Suffolk:

            Simon Harlstone, and Katharine his wife, with his five children: William Whitting, and Katharine his wife: Thomas Dobson, and his wife; Thomas Hubbard, and his wife; John Doncon, and his wife and maid; William Doncon; Thomas Woodward the elder; one Konnold's wife; a poor widow; one Mother Semon's maid: besides those that were constrained to do against their conscience, by the help of the parish priest, whose name was Sir John Brodish.

            These be the chief causes why those above-named were persecuted:

            "First, They did hold and believe the holy word of God to be the sufficient doctrine unto their salvation.

            "Secondly, They denied the pope's usurped authority, and did hold all that church of antichrist to be Christ's adversaries. And further, they refused the abused sacraments, defied the mass and all popish service and ceremonies, saying they robbed God of his honour, and Christ of his death and glory, and would not come at the church, without it were to the defacing of that they did there.

            "Thirdly, They did hold that the ministers of the church, by God's word, might lawfully marry.

            "Fourthly, They held the queen to be as chief head, and wicked rulers to be a great plague sent of God for sin, &c.

            "Fifthly, They denied man's free-will, and held that the pope's church did err, and many others in that point with them; rebuking their false confidence in works, and their false trust in man's righteousness. Also, when any rebuked those persecuted for going so openly, and talking so freely, their answer was, They knowledged, confessed, and believed, and therefore they must speak: and that their tribulation was God's good will and providence, and that his judgments were right, to punish them with others for their sins; and that of very faithfulness and mercy God had caused them to be troubled, so that one hair of their heads should not perish before the time, but all things should work unto the best to them that love God. And that Christ Jesus was their life and only righteousness, and that only by faith in him, and for his sake, all good things were freely given them; also forgiveness of sins and life everlasting."

            Many of these persecuted were of great substance, and had possessions of their own: give God the praise!


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