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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 368. JOHN NOYES



A true certificate of the taking of one John Noyes, of Laxfield, in the county of Suffolk, shoemaker, who was taken the nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord God 1557, as hereafter followeth.

Illustration -- John Noyes at the Stake

            In the month of September this present year, or (as some report) in the year past, suffered the blessed martyr, John Noyes, whose story here followeth:--

            "First, Master Thomas Lovel, being then chief constable of Hoxne hundred, in the county aforesaid, and one John Jacob, and William Stannard, then being under constables of the foresaid town of Laxfield, and Wolfren Dowsing, and Nicholas Stannard, of the same town, being then accounted faithful and catholic Christians, though undoubtedly they proved most cruel hinderers of the true professors of Christ and his gospel, with others, were commanded to be that present day before the justices, whose names were Master Thurston, Sir John Tyrrel, and Master Kene, and Sir John Silliard being high sheriff.

            "These sitting at Hoxne, in the county of Suffolk aforesaid, and there the said townsmen aforesaid having commandment of the said justices to inquire in their town, if there were any that would neglect to come to their service and mass; further, to examine the cause why they would not come, and thereupon to bring the true certificate to the said justices within fourteen days then next ensning; they then coming homeward, being full of hatred against the truth, and desirous to get promotion, without any such commandment of the justices, (as far as we can learn,) took counsel one with another how to attach the said John Noyes without any more delay.

            "This devilish enterprise agreed upon, chiefly through the counsel of Master Thomas Lovel, Wolfren Dowsing, and Nicholas Stannard aforesaid, with expedition his house was beset on both sides. This done, they found the said John Noyes on the backside of the said house going outward; and Nicholas Stannard called to the said John, and said, 'Whither goest thou?' And he said, To my neighbours.' And the said Nicholas Stannard said, 'Your master hath deceived you; you must go with us now.' But the said John Noyes answered, 'No, but take you heed your master deceive not you.' And so they took him and carried him to the justices the next day. After his appearance, and sundry causes alleged, the justices and the sheriff together cast him into Eye dungeon, and there he lay a certain time, and then was carried from thence to Norwich, and so came before the bishop, where were ministered unto him these positions following:--

            "1. Whether he believed that the ceremonies used in the church were good and godly to stir up men's minds to devotion.

            "2. Item, Whether he believed the pope to be supreme head of the church here in earth.

            "3. Item, Whether he believed the body of our Lord Jesus Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, after the words of consecration.

            "Whereunto he answered, that he thought the natural body of Christ to be only in heaven, and not in the sacrament, &c. For the which, sentence at last was read by the bishop against him, in the presence of these there sitting the same time: Dr. Dunning, chancellor, Sir W. Woodhouse, Sir Thomas Woodhouse, Master George Heyden, Magter Spenser, W. Farrar, alderman of Norwich, Master Thurston, Winesden, with divers other."

            More of his examination than this came not to our hands.

            In the mean time his brother-in-law, one Nicholas Fisk, of Dennington, going to comfort him at such time as he remained prisoner in the Guildhall of Norwich, after Christian exhortation, asked him if he did fear death when the bishop gave judgment against him, considering the terror of the same: and the said Noyes answered, he thanked God he feared death no more at that time, than he or any other did, being at liberty. Then the said Nicholas required him to show the cause of his condemnation: upon which request the said John Noyes wrote with his own hand as followeth --

            "I said," quoth he, "that I could not believe that in the sacrament of the altar there is the natural body of Christ, the same body that was born of the Virgin Mary. But I said that the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ is received of Christian people in the remembrance of Christ's death, as a spiritual food, if it be ministered according to Christ's institution.

            "But they said, I could not tell what spiritual meant.

            "The bishop said, that the sacrament was God, and must be worshipped as God. So said the chancellor also.

            "Then answered I, 'My Lord, I cannot so believe.'

            "'Then,' quoth the bishop, 'why? Then say thou dost believe.' Notwithstanding these collusions could not prevail."

            Now being condemned, he was sent, again from Norwich to Eye prison; and upon the twenty-first day of September, in the year aforesaid, about midnight, he was brought from Eye to Laxfield, to be burnt; and on the next-day morning was brought to the stake, where were ready against his coming the foresaid justice, Master Thurston, one Master Waller, then being under-sheriff, and Master Thomas Lovel, being high-constable, as is before expressed; the which commanded men to make ready all things meet for that sinful purpose. Now the fire in most places of the street was put out, saving a smoke was espied by the said Thomas Lovel proceeding out from the top of a chimney, to which house the sheriff and Grannow his man went, and brake open the door, and thereby got fire, and brought the same to the place of execution. When John Noyes came to the place where he should be burnt, he kneeled down and said the fiftieth Psalm, with other prayers; and then they, making haste, bound him to the stake. And being bound, the said John Noyes said, "Fear not them that can kill the body, but fear him that can kill both body and soul, and cast it into everlasting fire."

            When he saw his sister weeping, and making moan for him, he bade her that she should not weep for him, but weep for her sins.

            Then one Nicholas Cadman, being hastler, a valiant champion in the pope's affairs, brought a faggot and set against him; and the said John Noyes took up the faggot and kissed it, and said, "Blessed be the time that ever I was born to come to this."

            Then he delivered his Psalter to the under-sheriff, desiring him to be good to his wife and children, and to deliver to her that same book: and the sheriff promised him that he would, notwithstanding he never as yet performed his promise. Then the said John Noyes said to the people, "They say, they can make God of a piece of bread; believe them not!"

            Then said he, "Good people, bear witness that I do believe to be saved by the merits and passion of Jesus Christ, and not by mine own deeds." And so the fire was kindled, and burnt about him. Then he said, "Lord, have mercy upon me! Christ, have mercy upon me! Son of David, have mercy upon me!"

            And so he yielded up his life. And when his body was burned, they made a pit to bury the coals and ashes, and amongst the same they found one of his feet that was unburnt, whole up to the ankle, with the hose on; and that they buried with the rest.

            Now while he was a burning, there stood one John Jarvis by, a man's servant of the same town, a plain fellow, which said, "Good Lord, how the sinews of his arms shrink up!" And there stood behind him one Grannow, and Benet, being the sheriff's men, and they said to their master that John Jarvis said, "What villain wretches are these!" And their master bade lay hand on him, and they took him and pinioned him, and carried him before the justice that same day; and the justice did examine him of the words aforesaid; but he denied them, and answered that he said nothing but this, "Good Lord, how the sinews of his arms shrink up!" But, for all this, the justice did bind his father and his master in five pounds apiece, that he should be forthcoming at all times.

            And on the Wednesday next he was brought again before the justices, Master Thurston and Master Kene, they sitting at Fressingfield in Hoxne hundred; and there they did appoint and command, that the said John Jarvis should be set in the stocks the next market-day, and whipt about the market, naked. But his master, one William Jarvis, did after crave friendship of the constables; and they did not set him in the stocks till Sunday morning. And in the afternoon they did whip him about the market with a dog-whip, having three cords; and so they let him go.-- Some do give out, that John Jarvis was whipt for saying that Nicholas Cadman was Noyes's hastler; that is, such an one as maketh and hasteth the fire.


The copy of a certain letter that John Noyes sent to comfort his wife, at such time as he lay in prison.

            "Wife, you desired me that I would send you some tokens that you might remember me. As I did read in the New Testament, I thought it good to write unto you certain places of the Scripture for a remembrance. St. Peter saith, Dearly beIoved, be not troubled with this heat that is now come among you to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you; but rejoice, insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory appeareth, ye may be merry and glad. If ye be railed on for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you.

            "It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil-doing.

            "So I Pet. iv., See that none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a busy-body in other men's matters. But if any man suffer as a Christian man, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this behalf; for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. If it first begin at us, what shall the end of them be, that believe not the gospel of God? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit their souls to him in well-doing.

            "St. Paul saith, All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution.

            "St. John saith, See that ye love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him: for all that is in the world, as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world, which vanisheth away and the lust thereof; but he that fulfilleth the will of God, abideth for ever.

            "St. Paul saith, If ye be risen again with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things that are above, and not on things which are on earth.

            "Our Saviour Christ saith, Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea.

            "The prophet David saith, Great are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of all.

            "Fear the Lord, ye his saints: for they that fear him lack nothing.

            "When the righteous cry, the Lord heareth them, and delivereth them out of all their troubles: but misfortune shall slay the ungodly, and they that hate the righteous shall perish.

            "Hear, O my people! I assure thee, O Israel! if thou wilt hearken unto me, there shall no strange god be in thee, neither shalt thou worship any other God. Oh that my people would obey me! for if Israel would walk in my ways, I should soon put down their enemies, and turn my hand against their adversaries.

            "Our Saviour Christ saith, The disciple is not above his master, nor yet the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple to be as his master is, and that the servant be as his lord is. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household so; fear not them therefore.

            "St. Paul saith, Set yourselves therefore at large, and bear not a stranger's yoke with the unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? what company hath light with darkness? either what part hath the believer with the infidel, &c.? Wherefore come out from among them, and separate yourselves now, (saith the Lord,) and touch none unclean thing; so will I receive you, and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

            "For neither eye hath seen, nor the ear hath heard, neither can it enter into the heart of man, what good things the Lord hath prepared for them that love him.

            "Ye are bought neither with silver nor gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.

            "There is none other name given to men, wherein we must be saved.

            "So fare ye well, wife and children! and leave worldly care, and see that ye be diligent to pray.

            "Take no thought, saith Christ, saying, What shall we eat, or What shall we drink, or Wherewith shall we be clothed? for after all these things seek the Gentiles; for your heavenly Father know eth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and the righteousness thereof; and all these things shall be ministered unto you."


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