The troubles and examinations of Matthew Plaise, weaver, of the parish of Stone, in the county of Kent.
Unto these holy martyrs of Kent above specified, whereof seven suffered at Maidstone, and seven at Canterbury, I thought not unmeet here also to be adjoined the examination of Matthew Plaise, a weaver, of the same county of Kent, and a faithful Christian; who being apprehended and imprisoned likewise, for the testimony of a good conscience, in the castle of Canterbury, was brought to examination before the bishop of Dover, and Harpsfield the archdeacon, as here is to be read and seen.
The examination and answers of Matthew Plaise, before Thornton, bishop of Dover; Harpsfield,archdeacon; Collins, commissary, and other inquisitors, anno 1557.
"First, when I came before the bishop, he asked me whether I were not of that diocese, and where I dwelt; for that was my first article. I answered, I was of the parish of Stone, in Kent, and subject unto the king and queen of England.
"Then he said, I was indicted by twelve men at Ashford, at the sessions, for heresy. I said, that was sooner said than proved.
"Then he said, it was the truth that he had spoken to me, for he had whereby to prove it. Then I desired him to let me hear it, and I would answer to it.
"But he said he would not do so, but I should answer to my article, yea or nay. I said, he could not; for I was not at Ashford, and therefore he had nothing to lay to my charge. But now I perceive you go about to lay a net, to have my blood.
"After many words betwixt the bishop and me, the archdeacon said, 'Peace, peace, we do not desire thy blood, but we are glad to hear that thou art no heretic;' with many flattering words: and said, yet I was suspected of heresy, and if I would be content to confess how I did believe as concerning those articles, they would gladly teach me.
"But I said, 'I do not think so, for I talked with one of your doctors, and after long talk, he would needs know how I did believe in the sacrament; and I recited unto him the text, and because I would not make unto him an exposition, he would teach me nothing. Yet I prayed him for my learning to write his mind; and if it were the truth, I would believe him. And this I did desire him for the love of God, but it would not be.'
"Then said he, it was not so, he durst swear upon a book. I said it would be so proved.
"Then he stood up, with a long process, and said, he would tell me the truth, and was sure that the same doctor did believe as he did. I asked him how he knew that, seeing St. Paul doth say, that no man knoweth what is in man, but the Spirit which dwelleth in him: 'but if you wist what Christ meant by these words, I require mercy and not sacrifice, you would not kill innocents.'
"The bishop began with me again, and charged me in the king and queen's name, and the lord cardina's, to answer yea or nay to the articles that followed.
"Then I commanded, in His name that should come in flaming fire with his mighty angels to render vengeance to the disobedient, and to all those that believed not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which should be punished with everlasting damnation, that he should speak nothing but the truth grounded upon Christ and his apostles, and then I would answer him, or else not.
"Then he was very angry, and said, if I would not answer, he would condemn me indeed, unless I would answer every article. 'Well,' said I, 'if you do, you shall be guilty of my blood, and prove yourself a murderer.'
"Then the archdeacon took the articles in his hand, and read the second article, which was, that I was a Christian man, and did believe in their mother the catholic church, and the determination thereof. I said, I was a Christian man indeed, and therefore they had nothing against me.
"Then said he, 'What sayest thou to the catholic church, which hath so long continued, except it were nine or ten years that this heresy hath sprung up here in this realm?' I said, 'No man can accuse me of any thing spoken against the catholic church of Christ.'
"Then said the bishop, 'Dost thou not believe the Creed?'
Plaise.--"'Yes, verily, I believe my Creed, and all that is written in the Testament of Christ, with the rest of the Scriptures.'
"'Then,' saith he, 'thou dost confess that there is a catholic church; I am glad of that. But tell me, are the king and queen of that church, or no?'
"'Well,' said I, 'now I perceive you go about to be both mine accuser and also my judge, contrary to all right. I confess Christ hath a church upon earth, which is built upon the apostles and prophets, Christ being the head thereof. And as touching the king and queen, I answer, I have nothing to do with any man's faith but mine own; neither came I hither to judge, for I judge not myself, but the Lord must judge me.'
"Then said he, 'Is there no part of that church here in England?'
Plaise.--"'Well, I perceive you would fain have something to lay to my charge: I will tell you where. Christ saith, Where two or three be gathered together in his name, there is he in the midst among them.'
"Then the archdeacon stood up with his mocks, to put me out of comfort; and said to the people, that I had no wit, but that I thought all they were deceived so long time, that half a dozen of us should have the truth in a corner, and that all they should be deceived; with suchlike taunts and mocks, but would not suffer me to speak one word.
"Then he read the article of the sacrament, and said, I did deny the real presence to be in the sacrament after it was once consecrated; and that I said, Christ's body was in heaven, and no where else; and that the bread was nothing but a sign, token, or remembrance.
"Then I said, 'You have to show where and what my words were.' And hereof we talked a great while.
"At the last the bishop was so angry, that he charged me in the king's, queen's, and cardinal's name, before the mayor and his brethren, taking them to witness, if I did not say yea or nay, he would condemn me.
"Then I said, 'Seeing you have nothing to accuse me of, wherefore should I so answer? '
"Then the archdeacon said, I was guilty; and said I was like a thief at the bar, which would not confess his fault, because his accusers were not present; with a great many words, and would not let me open my mouth against him.
"Then I saw whereabout they went, granting to answer them by the word, or else I think they would have condemned me for holding of my peace; and this was my beginning: 'I believe that Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks he brake it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me.' •
Archdeacon.--"'Dost thou believe that Christ meant even as he said?'
"I said, 'Christ was no dissembler, but he spake the very truth.'
Archdeacon."'Thou hast very well said, we will make the best of thy words.' Then he praised me with many words, going about to prove it his body real and substantial, and said, 'Christ called himself bread. And this to prove: when Christ said, This is my body, the bread was his body indeed, [said he,] real and substantial; not so long and so big as it hung on the cross, as the Capernaites did think; but we eat it, as man's weak nature can eat Christ. Therefore when he had said, This is my body, the bread was his body in very deed.'
"Then I asked him, what Christ meant by these words, which is given for you.
"He said, 'Christ spake that by the bread also; but it was not written in Matthew, but Luke had those words.'
"Then I asked him, If Christ's body were made of bread, whether that was given for our redemption, or whether the bread was crucified for us, or not?
"Then he said, 'No, by St. Mary, I say not so.'
Plaise.--"'You have said the truth indeed, and even as I believe.'
"Then he stood up with a great many of words, and said, that I did think it but bare bread still, as other bread is: but he was sure Christ called it his body, and then it was his body indeed; for he would believe Christ.
"When he had spoken his pleasure by me, thinking to have condemned me by their law, I said he had not judged right of me, for I had not so spoken, but did believe the words of Christ as well as he, and as much as he could prove by the word.
"Then he would hear what I did say it was. I said, I did believe it was that he gave them.
"Then he asked me, what was that he gave them. I said, that which he brake.
"Then he asked me, what was that he brake. I said, that he took.
Archdeacon.--"'What was it that he did take?'
"I said, 'The text saith he took bread.'
Archdeacon.--"Well then, thou sayest it was but bread that his disciples did eat, by thy reason.'
Plaise.--"Thus much I say: 'Look, what he gave them, they did eat in deed.'
Archdeacon.--"Why, then, was not that his body that they did eat? '
Plaise.--"'It was that which he brake.'
"'Well,' said he, I perceive thy meaning well enough; for thou dost think it is but bread still, and that he was not able to make it his body.'
Plaise.--"'That is your exposition upon my mind.'
"Then said be, What didst thou receive, when thou didst receive last?'
"I said, I do believe that I did eat Christ's flesh, and drink his blood: for he saith, My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.'
"Then he said, I had well answered, thinking to have had some advantage at my hand; and prayed me to tell him, how I did eat his flesh and drink his blood. Then I said, 'I must answer you by the word which Christ saith, He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.'
"Then he faced out the matter with sophistry, and said I did eat Christ, as that church was in his eye; with many such mocks, but would not let me answer one word.
"Then the commissary did ask me, if I did not remember St. Paul, which did rebuke the Corinthians for their evil behaviour, and because they made no difference of the Lord's body, and brought in to prove his matter, how he called himself bread in John vi. So Paul saith, So oft as ye eat of this bread [meaning Christ's body] unworthily, ye eat and drink your own damnation, because ye make no difference of the Lord's body. For thus saith Christ, The bread that I will give you is my flesh. Now it is no bread, but it is his flesh.' And thus he alleged every scripture false, to make up the matter.
"Then I said, I did believe the words of St. Paul very well, even as he had spoken them: for thus he saith, He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh his own damnation, because he maketh no difference of the Lord's body.
Commissary.--"What is the cause that he eateth ids own damnation? '
"I said, 'St. Paul declareth it plainly with these words, If ye had judged yourselves, ye should not have been judged of the Lord.'
"Then the archdeacon said, he marvelled why I would not say that he called the bread his body, seeing Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, with many others, said, he called it his body.
"I said, 'You have condemned them as heretics, and you would have me say with them, because you would kill me.'
"Then he said, In that they said it was his body, they did say the truth.'
"I asked, wherefore they were killed, seeing they said the truth.
"Then said the bishop, that he had all their answers, and that they did not believe as they said. For they said, Christ called it his body, but it was not his natural body; but thou shalt answer me by and by, whether it be his body or not, or else I will anger thee.'
"Then I said I had answered him by the word, already, and did believe it also; therefore if he did condemn me for that, my life was not dear unto me, and I was sure he should not scape unpunished; for God will be revenged upon such murderers.
"Then the archdeacon entreated me to be ruled by him, and take mercy while it was offered; for if I were condemned, I must needs be burned. Yet he would not say but my soul might be saved;-- with many more words. And desired me that I would believe him, for he would speak the truth: beginning how Christ fed five thousand people with four loaves, and how he turned the water into wine; even so Christ took bread and blessed it, and when he had done, he brake it and said, This is my body; and then he commanded them to eat it, and therefore it must needs be his body.
"Then I desired him to speak the text right, or else I would not believe him.
"Then he stood up, and put off his cap, and thanked me for teaching of him; and said, I was a stubborn fellow, and took scorn to be taught.
"I said, I ought to hold him accursed, if he taught doctrine contrary to Christ and his apostles.
"Then he asked me, whether I did believe that Christ did give that he took, or not? I said, 'I do believe as much as can be proved by the Scripture, and more I will not believe.'
"Then he began with Moses's rod, how God commanded him to lay it down, and it was turned into a serpent. Seeing that this was by Moses, being but a man, how much more Christ, being both God and man, took one thing, and gave to his disciples another?
"I said, his comparison was nothing like, for Moses's rod when it was laid down, he saw that it was turned into a very serpent indeed; but in this sacrament no man can see either quality or yet quantity to be changed.
"Then said the bishop, that mine opinion and faith was like unto the Capernaites'. I said, theirs was more like their opinion, than mine.
"The archdeacon asked me, whether Christ took one thing, and gave another? I said, 'Look, what he brake he gave unto them, and bade them eat; and other answer I will make none, contrary to the word.'
Then he said, he marvelled why I would not believe them, seeing this learning had continued this fifteen hundred years; neither yet did say, as others had before, how Christ did call it his body.
"Then I said, 'When Cranmer, which was here bishop, was in authority, he said, that he did hold the truth, and commanded us to believe him; and he hath given his life for his opinion; and would you have me to believe you, because you say that you hold the truth? And that which makes me believe chiefly, is the Scripture, which I am sure is the truth indeed.'
"The bishop said, he had spoken the truth, and that I would not believe. I said, if he did not now speak the truth, I was sure he had spoken the truth; for he had preached before doctrine clean contrary unto this.
"Then were the rest of my articles read, which I answered; and in every article he had up this breaden god. And they sent for a candle-light, and I thought they would have condemned me; but God would not suffer their cruel hearts to have their pleasure that time, blessed be his name for evermore, Amen.
"Then the archdeacon was angry, and began to chide with me, because I would not desire a day of the bishop; and said I was a naughty, stubborn fellow; and said, It had been my duty to have desired him to have been good to me, that I might have a day. Then I said, 'I have spoken the truth; and therefore I would ask him no day, except he would give me a day of his own mind.'
"Then said the commissary, 'Dost thou not think that thou mayest be deceived, seeing he may be deceived that hath gone to study all the days of his life?' I said, 'Yea, I might be deceived, in that I was a man; but I was sure God's word could not be deceived.'
"Then he prayed me to be content, and confessed that I might learn, and said, They would be glad to teach me. And I said, I would be as glad to learn as any man.-- And thus they rose up and went away, saying nothing."
What became of this Matthew Plaise after, whether he died in prison, or was executed, or delivered, I have as yet no certain knowledge.