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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 371. THOMAS SPURDANCE



The examination of Thomas Spurdance, one of Queen Mary's servants, before the chancellor of Norwich.

            "The bishop's chancellor did ask me if I had been with the priest, and confessed my sins unto him. And I said, 'No, I had confessed my sins to God, and God saith, In what hour soever a sinner doth repent, and be sorry for his sins, and ask him forgiveness, willing no more so to do, he will no more reckon his sin unto him; and that is sufficient for me.'

            "Then said the chancellor, 'Thou deniest the sacrament of penance.' I said, 'I deny not penance; but I deny that I should show my sins unto the priest.'

            "Then said the chancellor, 'That is a denying of the sacrament of penance. Write this article.'

            "'Have you received the blessed sacrament of the altar,' said he, at this tune of Easter?' 'And I said, No.'

            "And why have you not? 'saith he. 'I said, I dare not meddle with you in it, as you use it.'

            'Why, do we not use it truly?' said he. I said, 'No: for the holy supper of the Lord serveth for the Christian congregation, and you are none of Christ's members; and therefore I dare not meddle with you, lest I be like unto you.'

            "'Why are we none of Christ's members?' said the chancellor. I said, 'Because you teach laws contrary to God's laws.'

            "'What laws are those?' said he. I said, 'These three articles that you swear the people unto here be false and untrue; and you do evil to swear the people unfo them.'

            "Then said he, 'Good people! take no heed unto his words, for he is a heretic, and teacheth you disobedience:' and so he would no more speak of that matter.

            "Then said he, 'How believest thou in the bless-ed sacrament of the altar? Dost thou not believe that after it is consecrated, it is the very same body that was born of the Virgin Mary?' I said, 'No, not the same body in substance: for the same body hath a substance in flesh, blood, and bones, and was a bloody sacrifice; and this is a dry saerifice.'

            "And I said, 'Is the mass a sacrifice?' Unto, which a doctor answered that sat by him, 'It is a sacrifice both for the quick and the dead.'

            "Then said I, 'No, it is no sacrifice; for St. Paul saith that Christ made one sacrifice once for all: and I do believe in none other sacrifice, but only in that one sacrifice that our Lord Jesus Christ made once for all.'

            "Then said the doctor, 'That sacrifice that Christ made, was a wet sacrifice, and the mass is a dry sacrifice.' Then said I, 'That same dry sacrifice is a sacrifice of your own making, and it is your sacrifice; it is none of mine.'

            "Then said the chancellor, He is a heretic: he, denieth the sacrament of the altar.'

            "Then said I, 'Will ye know how I believe in the holy supper of our Lord?' And he said, 'Yea.'

            "Then said I, I believe that if I come rightly and worthily, as God hath commanded me, to the holy supper of the Lord, I receive him by faith, by believing in him. But the bread, being received, is not God; nor the bread, that is yonder in the pis; is not God. God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, neither will be worshipped with the works of men's hands. And therefore you do very evil to cause the people to kneel down and worship the bread: for God did never bid you hold it above your heads, neither had the apostles such use.'

            "Then said the chancellor, 'He denieth the presence in the sacrament. Write this article also. He is a very heretic.' Then said I, 'The servant is not greater than his master: for your predecessors killed my Master Christ, the prophets and apostles, and holy virtuous men; and now you also kill the servants of Christ: so that all the righteous blood that hath been shed, even from righteous Abel until this day, shall be required at your hands.'

            "'Well,' said the chancellor, 'have him away!'"


Another examination of Spurdance, before the bishop in his house.

            "The bishop said, 'Sirrah, dost thou not believe in the catholic faith of holy church?' And I said, 'I believe Christ's catholic church.'

            "Yea,' said he, 'in Christ's church, of the which the pope is the head? Dost thou not believe that the pope is supreme head of the catholic church?'

            "And I said, 'No, I believe not that he should be above the apostles, if he take them to be his predecessors. For when there came a thought among the apostles, who should be the greatest when their Master was gone, Christ answered them unto their thoughts, The kings of the earth bear domination above other: but ye shall not so do; for he that will be greatest among you, shall become servant unto you all. How is it then,' said I, 'that he will climb so high above his fellows? And also we were sworn in my master King Henry's time, that we should to the uttermost of our power never consent to him again. And therefore as he hath nothing to do here in England, so neither in his own country, more than a bishop hath in his diocese."

            "'Yea,' said the bishop, 'what of that? We were then in error and sin; now we are in the right way again. And therefore thou must come home again with us, and knowledge thy fault, and become a Christian man, and be sworn unto the pope as our supreme head.-- Wilt thou be sworn unto the pope? How sayest thou?'

            "Then I said, 'No, I warrant you, by the grace of God, not as long as I live! For you cannot prove by the Scripture that the pope is head of the church, and may do therein what him listeth.'

            "'No!' said he; 'yes, I trow: for as the bellwether which weareth the bell, is head of the flock of sheep, even so is the pope the head of the church of Christ. And as the bees in the hive have a master-bee, when they are gone out, to bring them home again to the hive; even so the pope, when we be gone astray and wandered from the fold, from the hive, &c., then is ordained our head by succession of Peter, to bring us home again to the true church; as thou now, my good fellow, hast wandered long out of the way, like a scattered sheep, &c. Hear therefore that bell-wether, the master-bee, &c., and come home with us to thy mother the true church again.'

            "Unto whom I answered, 'My Lord, all this is but natural reason, and no Scripture. But since ye cannot prove the pope to be authorized by Scripture, ye answer not me as I thought ye would.'

            "'Hah! 'said he, 'I see well ye be stout, and will not be answered: therefore ye shall be compelled by law, whether ye will or no.'

            "'My Lord,' said I, 'so did your forefathers entreat Christ and his apostles. They had a law, and by their law they put him to death; and so likewise you have a law, which is tyranny, and by that would ye enforce me to believe as you do. But the Lord, I trust, will assist me against all your beggarly ceremonies, and make your foolishness known to all the world one day.'

            "Then said he, 'When were ye at church, and went in procession, and did the ceremonies of the church?' And I said, 'Never since I was born.' No! 'said he: 'how old are you? 'And I said, I think about forty.'

            "'Why,' said he, 'how did you use yourself at church twenty years ago?' I said, 'As you do now.' 'And even now,' said he, 'you said you did not use the ceremonies since you were born.' 'No more I did,' said I, 'since I was born anew; as Christ said unto Nicodemus, Except ye be born anew, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.'

            "Then said a doctor that sat by, 'He is very Anabaptist; for that is their opinion plain.' 'No sir, you say falsely,' said I; 'for I am no Anabaptist: for they deny children to be baptized, and so do not I.'

            "'Well,' said the bishop, 'why dost thou not go to church, and do the ceremonies?' And I said, 'Because they be contrary to God's word and laws, as you yourself have taught: but now you say, it is good again. And I think if there were a return tomorrow, you would say that is false again, which you hold now: therefore, I may well say, there is no truth in you.'

            "Then said the bishop, Thou art a stubborn fellow, and a heretic, and a traitor.'

            "'No,' said I, I am no traitor for I have done, I think, better service to the crown imperial of England, than you.'

            'If you had done so good service,' said he, 'you would be obedient to the laws of the realm.' 'So I am,' said I. There is no man alive (I thank God) that can accuse me justly, that ever I was disobedient to any civil laws. But you must consider, my Lord, that I have a soul and a body, and mv soul is none of the queen's, but my body and my goods are the queen's. And I must give God my soul, and all that belongeth unto it; that is, I rnust do the laws and commandments of God: and whosoever commandeth laws contrary to God's laws, I may not do them for losing of my soul, but must rather obey God than man.'

            "And he said, Why dost thou not these laws then? are they not agreeable to God's law?' And I said, 'No, you cannot prove them to be God's laws.' 'Yes,' saith he, 'that I can.'

            "Then said I, If you can prove me by the word of God, that you should have any graven images made to set in your churches for laymen's books, or to worship God by them, or that you should have any ceremonies in your church as you have, prove them by the word of God, and I will do them.'

            "Then said he, It is a good and decent order to furnish the church: as when you shall go to dinner, you have a cloth upon the table, to furnish the table before the meat shall come upon it; so are these ceremonies a comely, decent order to be in the church among Christian people.'

            "'These,' said I, are inventions and imaginations out of your own brain, without any word of God to prove them. For God saith, Look what you think good in your own eyes, if I command the contrary, it is abominable in my sight. And these ceremonies are against God's laws. For St. Paul saith, they be weak and beggarly, and rebuketh the Galatians for doing them. 'Well,' said he, 'if you will not do them, seeing they be the laws of the realm, you are a heretic and disobedient: and therefore come home again, and confess your fault with us, that you have been in error. Will you do so?' And I said, 'No, I have been in no error: for the spiritual laws were never trulier set forth than in my master King Edward's time, and I trust unto God I shall never forsake them while I live.'

            "Then came a gentleman to me and said, 'Are ye wiser than all men? and have ye more knowledge than all men? Will ye cast away your soul willingly? My Lord, and other men also, would fain you would save yourself: therefore choose some man where you will, either spiritual or temporal, and take a day; my Lord will give it you.'

            "Then said I, If I save my life, I shall lose it; and if I lose my life for Christ's sake, I shall find it in life everlasting. And if I take a day, when the day cometh, I must say then even as I do now, except I will lie, and therefore that needeth not.'

            "'Well, then have him away,' said the bishop."

            This above-named Thomas Spurdance was one of Queen Mary's servants, and was taken by two of his fellows, the said queen's servants, named John Haman, otherwise called Barker, and George Looson, both dwelling in Coddenham, in the county of Suffolk, who carried him to one Master Gosnall, dwelling in the said Coddenham, and by him he was sent to Bury, where he remained in prison; and afterwards burnt in the month of November.


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