354. A BLOODY COMMISSION GIVEN FORTH BY KING PHILIP AND QUEEN MARY, TO PERSECUTE THE POOR MEMBERS OF CHRIST.
The next month following, which was February, came out another bloody commission from the king and queen, to kindle up the fire of persecution, as though it were not hot enough already; the contents of which commission I thought here not to pretermit, not for lack of matter, whereof I have too much, but that the reader may understand how kings and princes of this world, like as in the first persecutions of the primitive church under Valerian, Decius, Maximian, Dioclesian, Licinius, &c., so now. also in these latter perilous days, have set out all their main force and power, with laws, policy, and authority to the uttermost they could devise, against Christ and his blessed gospel. And yet, notwithstanding all these laws, constitutions, injunctions, and terrible proclamations provided against Christ and his gospel, Christ yet still continueth, his gospel flourisheth, and truth ,prevaileth; kings and emperors in their own purposes overthrown, their devices dissolved, their counsels confounded; as examples both of this and of all times and ages do make manifest. But now let us hear the intent of this commission, in tenor as followeth.
"Philip and Mary, by the grace of God king and queen of England, &c.: to the right reverend father in God our right trusty and well-beloved councillor Thomas, bishop of Ely; and to our right trusty and well-beloved William Windsor, knight, Lord Windsor; Edward North, knight, Lord North; and to our trusty and well-beloved councillor, J. Bourne, knight, one of our chief secretaries; J. Mordaunt, knight; Francis Englefield, knight, master of our wards and liveries; Edward Walgrave, knight, master of our great wardrobe; Nicholas Hare, knight, master of the rolls and our high court of chancery; and to our trusty and well-beloved Thomas Pope, knight; Roger Cholmley, knight: Richard Rede, knight; Rowland Hill, knight; William Rastal, sergeant at law; Henry Cole, clerk, dean of Paul's; William Roper and Ralph Cholmley, esquires; William Cook, Thomas Martin, John Story, and John Vaughan, doctors of the law, greeting.
"Forasmuch as divers devilish and slanderous persons have not only invented, bruited, and set forth, divers false rumours, tales, and seditious slanders against us, but also have sown divers heresies and heretical opinions, and set forth divers seditious books, within this our realm of England, meaning thereby to stir up division, strife, contention, and sedition, not only amongst our loving subjects, but also betwixt us and our said subjects, with divers other outrageous misdemeanours, enormities, contempts, and offences, daily committed and done, to the disquieting of us and our people, we minding the due punishment of such offenders, and the repressing of such-like offences, enormities, and misbehaviours from henceforth, having special trust and confidence in your fidelities, wisdoms, and discretions, have authorized, appointed, and assigned you to be our commissioners; and by these presents do give full power and authority unto you, and three of you, to inquire as well by the oaths of twelve good and lawful men, as by witnesses and all other means and politic ways you can devise, of all and singular heretical opinions, lollardies, heretical and seditious books, concealments, contempts, conspiracies, and all false rumours, tales, seditious and slanderous words or sayings, raised, published, bruited, invented, or set forth against us, or either of us, or against the quiet governance and rule of our people and subjects, by books, lies, tales, or otherwise, in any county, key, bowing, or other place or places, within this our realm of England or elsewhere, in any place or places beyond the seas, and of the bringers-in, utterers, buyers, sellers, readers, keepers, or conveyers of any such letter, book, rumour, and tale, and of all and every their coadjutors, counsellors, comforters, procurers, abettors, and maintainers, giving unto you, and three of you, full power and authority, by virtue hereof, to search out and take into your hands and possessions, all manner of heretical and seditious books, letters, and writings, wheresoever they or any of them shall be found, as well in printers' houses and shops, as elsewhere, willing you and every of you to search for the same in all places, according to your discretions. And also to inquire, hear, and determine all and singular enormities, disturbances, misbehaviours, and negligences committed in any church, chapel, or other hallowed place, within this realm; and also for and concerning the taking away or withholding any lands, tenements, goods, ornaments, stocks of money or other things, belonging to every of the same churches and chapels, and all accounts and reckonings concerning the same. And also to inquire and search out all such persons as obstinately do refuse to receive the blessed sacrament of the altar, to hear mass, or to come to their parish churches or other convenient places appointed for divine service; and all such as refuse to go on procession, to take holy bread or holy water, or otherwise do misuse themselves in any church or other hallowed place, wheresoever any of the same offences have been, or hereafter shall be, committed within this our said realm.
"Nevertheless, our will and pleasure is, that when and as often as any person or persons, hereafter being called or convented before you, do obstinately persist or stand in any manner of heresy, or heretical opinion, that then ye, or three of you, do immediately take order, that the same person or persons, so standing or persisting, be delivered and committed to his ordinary, thereto be used according to the spiritual and ecclesiastical laws. And also we give unto you, or three of you, full power and authority, to inquire and search out all vagabonds, and masterless men, barrators, quarrellers, and suspect persons, abiding within our city of London, and ten miles' compass of the same, and all assaults and affrays done and committed within the same city and compass. And further to search out all wastes, decays, and ruins of churches, chancels, chapels, parsonages, and vicarages in the diocese of the same, being within this realm; giving you and every of you full power and authority by virtue hereof to hear and determine the same, and all other offences and matters above specified and rehearsed, according to your wisdoms, consciences, and discretions, willing and commanding you, or three of you, from time to time, to use and devise all such politic ways and means for the trial and searching out of the premises, as by you, or three of you, shall be thought most expedient and necessary: and upon inquiry and due proof had, known, perceived, and tried out, by the confession of the parties, or by sufficient witnesses before you, or three of you, concerning the premises, or any part thereof, or by any other ways or means requisite, to give and award such punishment to the offenders, by fine, imprisonment, or otherwise, and to take such order for redress and reformation of the premises, as to your wisdoms, or three of you, shall be thought meet and convenient.
"Further, willing and commanding you, and every three of you, in case you shall find any person or persons obstinate or disobedient, either in their appearance before you, or three of you, at your calling or assignment, or else in not accomplishing, or not obeying, your decrees, orders, and commandments, in any thing or things touching the premises or any part thereof, to commit the same person or persons so offending to ward, there to remain, till by you, or three of you, he be discharged or delivered: and we give you, and every three of you, full power and authority by these presents, to take and receive, by your discretion, of every offender or suspect person to be convented and brought before you, a recognisance or recognisances, obligation or obligations, to our use, of such sum or sums of money as to you, or three of you, shall seem convenient; as well for the personal appearance before you of every such suspected person, as for the performance and accomplishment of your orders and decrees, in case you shall so think convenient: or for the true and sure payment of all and every such fine and fines, as shall hereafter be by you, or three of you, taxed or assessed, upon any offender that shall be before you, or three of you, duly convinced as is aforesaid, to our use, to be paid at such days and times as by you, or three of you, shall be called, limited, and appointed: and you are to certify every such recognisance or obligation, so being taken for any fine or fines, (not fully and wholly paid before you,) under your hands and seals, or the hands or seals of three of you, into our court of chancery; to the intent we may be thereof duly answered, as appertaineth.
"And furthermore we give to you, and three of you, full power and authority by these presents, not only to call before you all and every offender and offenders, aand all and every suspected person and persons, in any of the premises, but also all such and so many witnesses as ye shall think meet to be called; and them, and every of them, to examine, and compel to answer and swear upon the holy evangelists to declare the truth, of all such things whereof they or any of them shall be examined, for the better trial, opening, and declaration of the premises, or of any part thereof.
"And further, our will and pleasure is, that you, or three of you, shall name and appoint one sufficient person to gather up and receive all such sums of money as shall be assessed and taxed by you, or any three of you, for any fine or fines upon any person, for their offences; and you, or three of you, by bill or bills assigned with your hands, shall and may assign and appoint, (as well to the said person for his pains in receiving the said sums, as also to your clerks, messengers, and attendants upon you, for their travail, pains, and charges to be sustained for us, about the premises or any part thereof,) such sum and sums of money for their rewards, as by you, or three of you, shall be thought expedient: willing and commanding also all our auditors and other officers, (upon the sight of the said bills signed with the hands of you, or three of you,) to make to the said receiver due allowance according to the said bills, upon this account. Wherefore we will and command you, our said commissioners, with diligence to execute the premises, any of our laws, statutes, proclamations, or other grants, privileges, or ordinances, which be, or may seem to be, contrary to the premises, notwithstanding.
"And moreover, we will and command all and singular justices of peace, mayors, sheriffs, bailiffs, constables, and all other our officers, ministers, and faithful subjects, to be aiding, helping, and assisting you at your commandment, in due execution hereof; as they may tender our pleasure, and will answer to the contrary at their uttermost perils. And we will and grant, that these our letters patent shall be sufficient warrant and discharge for you, and every of you, against us, our heirs and successors; and all and every other person and persons, whatsoever they be, of, for, and concerning, the premises or any parcel thereof, or for the execution of this our commission or any part thereof. In witness whereof, we have caused these our letters patent to be made, and to continue and endure for one whole year next coming after the date hereof.
"Witness ourselves at Westminster, the eighth of February, the third and fourth year of our reigns."