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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 357. STEPHEN GRATWICK



The story of Stephen Gratwick, and two other martyrs, burned in St. George's Fields, in Southwark.

            After these moreover, in the month of May, followed three others that suffered in St. George's Fields in Southwark: William Morant, Stephen Gratwick, with one King, who suffered at the same time.

            Among other histories of the persecuted and condemned saints of God, I find the condemnation of none more strange nor unlawful than of this Stephen Gratwick: who first was condemned by the bishop of Winchester and the bishop of Rochester, which were not his ordinaries. Secondly, when he did appeal from those incompetent judges to his right ordinary, his appeal could not be admitted. Thirdly, when they had no other shift to colour their inordinate proceedings withal, they suborned one of the priests to come in for a counterfeit and a false ordinary, and sit upon him. Fourthly, being openly convinced and overturned in his own arguments, yet the said bishop of Winchester, Dr. White, neither would yield to the force of truth, nor suffer any of the audience assistant once to say, God strengthen him. Fifthly, as they brought in a false ordinary to sit upon him; so they pretended false articles against him which were no part of his examinations, but of their devising, to have his blood. Sixthly and lastly, having no other ground nor just matters against him, but only for saying these words, "That which I said I have said," they read the sentence of death upon him.

            And this was the dealing of these men, which needs will be reputed for catholic fathers of the spiritualty, succeeders of the apostles, disciples of Christ, pillars of the holy church, and leaders of the people: of whose doings and proceedings, how agreeable they are to the example of Christ and his apostles, I leave to discuss, referring the judgment hereof to them which know the institution of Christ's religion and doctrine.

            Now lest, peradventure, the disordered misrule of these Christmas lords will not be credited upon the simple narration of the story, ye shall hear the whole discourse of this process, registered by the hand of the martyr himself, who as he could tell best what was done, so I am sure would not testify otherwise than the truth was, according as you shall hear by his own declaration here following.

            "Upon the twenty-fifth day of May, in the year of our Lord 1557, I, Stephen Gratwick, came before the bishop of Winchester, Dr. White, into St. George's church in Southwark, at eight of the clock in the morning, and then he called me before him, and said unto me,

            "'Stephen Gratwick, how standeth the matter with thee now? Art thou contented to revoke thy heresies, the which thou hast maintained and defended here within my diocese, oftentimes before me? And also upon Sunday last ye stood up in the face of the whole church maintaining your heresies; so that you have offended within the liberty of my diocese. And now, I being your ordinary, you must answer to me directly, whether you will revoke them or not, the which I have here in writing: and if so be that you will not revoke them, then I will excommunicate you. And therefore note well what you do, for now I read here the articles against you.' And so when he had ended, he bade me answer unto them.

            Gratwick.--"My Lord, these articles which you have here objected against me, are not mine, but of your own making: for I never had any of mine examinations written at any time. And therefore these be objections that you lay against me as a snare, to get my blood. Wherefore I desire your lawful favour, to allow my lawful appeal unto mine ordinary; for I have nothing to do with you. And whereas you do burden me, that I have offended within your diocese, it is nothing so; for I have not enterprised either to preach or teach within your diocese, but was apprehended by mine own bishop and sent prisoner into your diocese, by the consent of the council and mine own ordinary; and therefore I so being in your diocese, you have no cause to let my lawful appeal.'

            "And with that there came the bishop of Rochester, and was received at the bishop of Winchester's hands with much gladness, according to their determinate purpose before invented. And so followed the archdeacon of Canterbury. And then the bishop again started up as a man half ravished of his wits for joy, embracing him with many gentle words, and said, that he was very glad of his coming; making himself ignorant thereof, as he thought it should appear to me.

            "Then said Winchester, 'Sir, I am very glad of ycur coming. For here I have one before me, who hath appealed unto you, being his ordinary.' Then said the archdeacon of Canterbury, 'I know this man very well. He hath been divers times before me.' And then I answered and said, 'My Lord, I am not of his diocese, not by five miles: for his diocese reacheth on that part but to the cliffs of Lewes, and I dwelt at Brighthelmstone, five miles beyond, in the diocese of the bishop of Chichester; and therefore I am not of his diocese.'

            "Then the bishop of Winchester, the bishop of Rochester, and the archdeacon of Canterbury, cast their heads together, and laughed: and then they said, my ordinary would be here by and by. And so they sent forth for a counterfeit, instead of mine ordinary; and then I saw them laugh, and I spake unto them and said, Why do ye laugh? are ye confederate together for my blood, and therein triumph? You have more cause to look weightily upon the matter; for I stand here before you upon life and death. But you declare yourselves what you are; for you are lapped in lamb's apparel, but I would to God ye had coats according to your assembly here, which are scarlet gowns; for I do here perceive you are bent to have my blood.'

            "And then came rushing in their counterfeited bishop, who was the hired servant to deliver me into the hands of the high priest; and the bishop hearing him come, with haste inquired of his man, who was there; and he said, 'My Lord of Chichester.' Then the bishop of Winchester with haste rose up and said, 'Ye are most heartily welcome;' and required him to sit down; and then said the bishop of Winchester to me, 'Lo! here is your ordinary: what have you now to say unto him?'

            Gratwick.--"'I have nothing to say unto him. If ye have nothing to say unto me, I pray you let me depart.' Then answered my counterfeit ordinary and said, 'Here you stand before my Lords and me in trial of your faith; and if you bring the truth, we shall by compulsion give place unto you, as it is to be proved by the word; and your doctrine to be heard and embraced for a truth.'

            "Then I demanded of him whether he meant 'by authority, or by the judgment of the Spirit of God in his members.' And he answered me, 'By authority as well as by the Spirit.'

            "Then I said, 'Now will I turn your own argument upon you; for Christ came before the high priests, scribes, and Pharisees, bringing the truth with him; being the very truth himself, which truth cannot lie; yet both be and his truth wa.s condemned, and took no place with them, and also the apostles, and all the martyrs that died since Christ. Therefore I turn your own argument upon you; answer it if you can!'

            "Then he, with a great heat of choler, said unto the bishop of Winchester, 'Object some articles against him, for he is obstinate, and would fain get out of our hands, therefore hold him to some particular:' so that other answer could I not have of his argument.

            "Then the bishop of Winchester began to read his objections of his own making against me, and bade me answer unto them. And I said, No, except you would set the law apart, because I see you are mindful of my blood.'

            Winchester.--"'Now you may see he will not answer to these, but as he hath aforesaid.'

            "Then spake the counterfeit ordinary again, and said, 'My Lord, ask him what he saith to the sacrament of the altar.' Then the bishop asked me, as my counterfeit ordinary required him.

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, I do believe that in the sacrament of the supper of the Lord, truly ministered in both kinds, according to the institution of Christ, unto the worthy receiver, he eateth mystically by faith the body and blood of Christ.' Then I asked him if it were not the truth. And he said, 'Yes.' Then said I, 'Bear witness of the truth.'

            "Then the bishop of Winchester, whose head being subtilest to gather upon my words, said, 'My Lord, see you not how he creepeth away with his heresies, and covereth them privily? Note, how he here separateth the sacrament of the altar from the supper of the Lord, meaning it not to be the true sacrament; and also how he condemneth our ministration in one kind, and alloweth that the unworthy receiver doth not eat and drink the body and blood of Christ; which be sore matters truly weighed, being covered very craftily with his subtle shifts and sophistry; but he shall answer directly or ever he depart.'

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, this is but your gathering of my words, for you before confessed the same sayings to be the truth; and thus you catch at me, and fain would have a vantage for my blood. But seeing you judge me not to mean the sacrament of the altar, now come to the probation of the same sacrament, and prove it to be the true sacrament, and I am with you; or else if you can prove your church to be the true church, I am also with you.'

            "But then he called to memory the last probation of the church and sacraments, how he before was driven to forsake the Scriptures, and to show me by good reason how they might minister the sacrament in one kind. And his reason was this:-- Like as a man or woman dieth on a sudden, and so when we have given him the body of Christ, in the mean time the party dieth, and so he eateth the body of Christ, and not drinketh his blood. And this was his simple shift in the proving of their sacraments: so that he was now half abashed to begin that matter again. But yet a little subtle shift he brought in, and said, 'What sayest thou by the administration of the priests every day for themselves, and they minister in both kinds?' To that I answered, You have two administrations; for I am sure at Easter you minister but in one kind, and therefore it is not according to the institution of Christ, but after your own imaginations.'

            Winchester.--"'Why, then what sayest thou to these words, Take, eat; this is my body. These are the words of Christ. Wilt thou deny them?'

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, they are the words of Scripture, I affirm them, and not deny them.'

            Rochester.--"'Why, then thou dost confess in the sacrament of the altar to be a real presence, the selfsame body that was born of the Virgin Mary, and is ascended up into heaven.'

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, what do you now mean? Do you not also mean a visible body? for it cannot be but of necessity -- if it be a real presence, and a material body, it must be a visible body also.'

            Winchester.--"'Nay, I say unto thee, it is a real presence, and a material body, and an invisible body too.'

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, then it must needs be a fantastical body; for if it should be a material and invisible, as you affirm, then it must needs be a fantastical body: for it is apparent, that Christ's human body was visible and seen.'

            "Then the bishop of Winchester brake out and said, 'When didst thou see him? I pray thee tell me.' To that I answered and said, 'A simple argument it is: because our corporal eyes cannot comprehend Christ, doth that prove or follow, that he is invisible, because we cannot see him?'

            "And with that the bishop of Winchester began to wax weary of his argument, and removed his talk to Judas in eating the sacrament, and said, 'He ate him wholly, as the apostles did.'

            "And then I asked him, if he meant Christ's flesh and blood, the which he speaketh of in John vi., and saith, 'He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life in me.' To that the bishop of Winchester answered and said, 'Yea.'

            "Then said I, 'Of necessity Judas must needs be saved, because he did eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ, as you have affirmed; and also all the ungodly that die without repentance, because they have eaten your sacrament, which you say is the flesh and blood of Christ; therefore of necessity they shall receive the benefit thereof, that is, eternal life; which is a great absurdity to grant. And then of necessity it must follow, that all that eat not and drink not of your sacrament, shall finally perish and be damned; for Christ saith, Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can have no life in you. And you have afore said that your sacrament is the same flesh and blood that Christ speaketh of. And here I prove, that all children, then, that die under age to receive the sacrament, by your own argument must be damned; which is horrible blasphemy to speak. Now here I turn your own argument upon you; answer it if you can!'

            Winchester.--"'My Lord, do you not see what deceitful arguments he bringeth in here against us, mingled with sophistry, and keepeth himself in vantage, so that we can get no hold upon him? But I say unto thee, thou perverse heretic, I see now thou art a perverse fellow. I had a better opinion of thee; but now I see we lose our time about thee. Yet I answer thee, St. Paul doth open John vi. plainly, if thou wilt see; for he saith, 'They eat Christ's body and drink his blood unworthily, and that was the cause of their damnation.'

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, take heed ye do not add to the text; for he that addeth unto the text, is accursed of God. And I am sure here you have brought more than Paul hath spoken; for he saith not, because they have eaten his body and drunk his blood unworthily; but St. Paul saith, Whosoever shall eat of this bread and drink of the cup unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of Christ. Note, my Lord, he saith not as you have affirmed, but clean contrary.'

            "And with that they were all in a great rage. And the bishop of Winchester said, I belied the text. And then I called for the text.

            "And he said, I asked thee even now, if thou understoodest Latin, and thou saidst, 'Whether I can or no, the people shall bear witness in English.'

            "And so I called again for the Testament, whether it were Latin or English, for the trial of the text.

            "And then when the bishop of Winchester saw that I cared not whether of the translations I had, he stood up, thinking to beguile some simple man that had a book there, and bade him that had an English Testament to bring it in, that he might get some hold at him that should bring a Testament. But God disappointed him thereof, and so he flew away from his matter, and began to rail upon me, and said my subtle Gratwick should not serve; for if I would not answer directly, I should nevertheless be excommunicated. 'For,' said he, 'I see a mad toy in thine head: thou gloriest much in thy talk, and thinkest now the people are come about thee, that thou shalt encourage them with thy constant heretical opinion. For the last day, when thou wast before me upon Sunday, in St. Mary Overy's church, thou there reprovedst my sermon, and hadst a thousand by thee at the least, to bid God strengthen thee: but now let me see him here, that dare open his mouth to bid God strengthen thee; he shall die the death that thou shalt die.'

            "To that I answered, 'My Lord, I know your cruelty doth extend more largely than your pity. Good experience so I have to say, form you keep men in prison a year or two, taking their books from them, permitting them not so much as a Testament to look upon for their soul's comfort, the which all men ought to have; and so you entreat them more like brute beasts than Christian men.'

            Winchester.--"'No, sir; we will use you as we will use the child: for if the child will hurt himself with the knife, we will keep the knife from him. So, because you will damn your souls with the word, therefore you shall not have it.'

            Gratwick.--"'My Lord, a simple argument you bring to maintain and cover your fault. Are you not ashamed to make the word the cause of our damnation? I never knew any man but only you, that did not affirm our sins to be the cause of our damnation, and not the word, as you say; and therefore if your argument be good, then this is good also: because that some men do abuse drink, therefore the benefit of drink should be taken from all men, or any other such-like good gift.'

            Winchester.--"'My Lords, here we lose much time, for this fellow is perverse, speaking nothing but sophistry and perverse questions; so that we can get no advantage upon him.'

            "Then spake my counterfeit ordinary, as one half asleep all this while; yet somewhat with haste, when he was awaked, he began to tell his tale, and said, 'Read these articles against him once more, and if he will not answer them, take him upon his first words: That which I said, that I have said.'

            "Then the bishop of Winchester began to read them again. But I said unto him, I would not answer them, because they were none of mine examinations, but objections of their own making, because they would have my blood. But yet I said, if they would set the law apart, I would talk my conscience freely to them.

            "Then my counterfeit ordinary began to speak again, charging me with the saying of St. Peter, that I should render account of such hope as was in me.

            Gratwick.--"'So can I do, and yet I shall not please you; for here I now render my hope as St. Peter willeth me: I believe only in Jesus Christ to have my whole salvation in him, by him, and through him; but I perceive you would have me render my faith in such sort, as you may have my blood, and therefore you bring good Scriptures, and evil apply them.'

            Winchester.--"'Why, this fellow is perverted, and we shall get no more at his hands than we have already; therefore let us pronounce sentence against him, for we do but lose our time.'

            Gratwick.--"'Nay, good my Lord, seeing you will needs have my blood, let me say a little more for myself. Upon Sunday last, when I was before you, you preached this which was a truth, and agreeable to the doctrine of the apostle St. James, and said, If any man think himself a religious man, and in the mean time seduce his tongue or his heart, the same man's religion is a vain religion. And so, my Lord, you, standing there in the pulpit, in the mean time seduced your tongue to slander us poor prisoners, being there present, in iron bonds, burdening us with the sect of Arians, and with the sect of Herodians, and with the sect of Anabaptists, and with the sect of Sacramentaries, and with the sect of Pelagians. And when we stood up to purge ourselves thereof, you said you would cut out our tongues, and cause us to be pulled out of the church by violence. But there you gave yourself a shrewd blow, for your tongue in the mean time slandered your neighbour. For I, my Lord, will give my life against all these heresies, the which you there burdened us withal, even as I will give my life against that wherein I now stand before you.'

            "And with that he was raging angry, and caught my condemnation, and said, 'Thou wilt grant here no more, but this word; That I have said, I have said. And here I gather matter enough to condemn thee, for this is a confirmation of all that thou hast heretofore said.'

            "Then I answered, 'If you can prove that ever any of mine examinations were written, it were enough; but you have nothing against me, but objections of your own making.'

            Winchester.--"'Have at thee now. If thou wilt not yield, I will pronounce sentence against thee.' And so he proceeded forth onward apace, cursing and banning in Latin; so that I told him, 'If the people might hear it in English, they would think you an uncharitable bishop.' And then I said, 'Stay, my Lord, and note what you do; for you have neither temporal law, nor spiritual, here against me in any just cause.'

            "Then stepped forth a gentleman, and said unto my Lord, 'Take heed what ye do; for he doth here say, that you have no title nor cause, why you should condemn him.'

            "Then the bishop looked about him again, and asked me if I would recant. I asked him, whereof I should recant.

            "Then said the bishop, 'Are you there? Nay, then I know what I have to do.' And so he proceeded forth in reading my condemnation. And there was another gentleman which began to snap and snatch at me: and then said I, 'I would God I had known this, ere ever I had come from home; I would surely have put on my breech, and not had my skin thus torn.' And all this while the bishop read forth still.

            "At last his chaplains cried, 'Stop, stop, my Lord: for now he will recant.' And then the bishop asked me again. And I answered and said, 'My Lord, my faith is grounded more stedfastly than to change in a moment; it is no process of time can alter me, unless my faith were as the waves of the sea.' And so the bishop made an end, and delivered me into the hands of the sheriff, to be carried prisoner to the Marshalsea again.

            "And when I was condemned, I desired God with a loud voice, that he would not lay my blood to their charge, if it were his good will; and so then they refused my prayer, and sent me away. Then I began to talk as I went, and they cried, 'Cut out his tongue, or stop his mouth;' and so I was brought to the Marshalsea, and lapped in iron bands. Therefore I pray unto God, that they unto whom this present writing shall come, may take example by my death and soldier-fare. So be it.
            "By me, STEPHEN GRATWICK, condemned for God's everlasting truth."


Stephen Gratwick to the reader.

            "Here, for want of time, I have left out many matters, because the Lord hath hastened the time, so that I have written but the briefness of the matter in probation of faith, and the reward of faith, the which the bishop of Rochester and I debated upon; the which matter I would have been very glad to have set down in writing.

            "Also much more talk there was, that the bishop of Winchester and I had concerning my worldly friends and personal estate; for he played Satan with me. He carried me up to the mountains, and there told me, my learning was good, and my eloquence, and also my knowledge; save that I did abuse it, said he. And then he fell to praising of my person, that it was comely, and worthy to serve a prince. Thus Satan flattered with me, to make me answer unto such objections as he would lay against me, that I might fall into his diocese."

            Thus Stephen Gratwick, this Christian martyr, being wrongfully condemned by the bishop of Winchester, (as ye have heard,) was burned with William Morant, and one King, in St. George's Fields, about the latter end of May.


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