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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- ANNO 1558.

ANNO 1558.



Illustration -- Cutbert Symson at the stake


The suffering and cruel torments of Cutbert Symson, deacon of the Christian congregation in London, in Queen Mary's days, most patiently abiding the cruel rage of the papists for Christ's sake.

            NEXT after the martyrdom of Master Rough, minister of the congregation above mentioned, succeeded in like martyrdom the deacon also of that said godly company or congregation in London, named Cutbert Symson, bemg committed to the fire the year of our Lord 1558, the twenty-eighth day of March.

            This Cutbert Symson was a man of a faithful and zealous heart to Christ and his true flock, insomuch that he never ceased labouring and studying most earnestly, not only how to preserve them without corruption of the popish religion; bnt also his care was ever vigilant, how to keep them together without peril or danger of persecution. The pains, travail, zeal, patience, and fidelity of this man, in caring and providing for this congregation, as it is not lightly to be expressed, so is it wonderful to behold the providence of the Lord by vision, concerning the troubles of this faithful minister and godly deacon, as in this here following may appear.

            The Friday at night before Master Rough, minister of the congregation, (of whom mention is made before,) was taken, being in his bed, he dreamed that he saw two of the guard leading Cutbert Symson, deacon of the said congregation; and that he had the book about him, wherein were written the names of all them which were of the congregation. Whereupon being sore troubled, he awaked, and called his wife, saying, "Kate, strike a light, for I am much troubled with my brother Cutbert this night." When she had so done, he gave himself to read in his book awhile, and then, feeling sleep to come upon him, he put out the candle, and so gave himself again to rest. Being asleep, he dreamed the like dream again; and, awaking therewith, he said, "Oh! Kate, my brother Cntbert is gone." So they lighted a candle again, and rose. And as the said Master Rough was making him ready to go to Cutbert, to see how he did, in the mean time the said Cutbert came in with the book containing the names and accounts of the congregation: whom when Master Rough had seen, he said, "Brother Cutbert, ye are welcome; for I have been sore troubled with you this night;" and so told him his dream. After he had so done, he willed him to lay the book away from him, and to carry it no more about him. Unto which Cutbert answered, he would not so do: for dreams, he said, were but fantasies, and not to be credited. Then Master Rough straitly charged him, in the name of the Lord, to do it. Whereupon the said Cutbert took such notes out of the book, as he had willed him to do, and immediately left the book with Master Rough's wife.

            The next day following, in the night, the said Master Rough had another dream in his sleep concerning his own trouble; the matter whereof was this. He thought in his dream, that he was carried himself forcibly to the bishop, and that the bishop plucked off his beard, and cast it into the fire, saying these words, "Now I may say I have had a piece of a heretic burned in my house:" and so accordingly it came to pass.

            The said Master Rough, having a child in his bed with him at that time, of two years of age, yet alive, called Rachel, suddenly she awoke in the night, and cried: "Alas, alas, my father is gone, my father is gone;" and, for all that they could do or speak, long it was ere she could be persuaded that he was there. A candle being lighted, and she, coming better to herself, saw him, and took him about the neck. and said, "Father, now I will hold you, that you go not away:" and so twice or thrice repeated the same. Then they fell asleep again the same night, and so Master Rough's wife, being troubled in like case, dreamed that she saw one James Mearing's wife (who also was burned at the same stake with Master Rough) going down the street with a bloody banner in her hand, and a fire-pan on her head. Then suddenly she arising to go to see her, she thought she stumbled on a great hog, and had a mighty fall thereby; through the sudden fear she awoke, and said, "I am never able to rise again."

            Now to return to Cutbert again; as we have touched something before concerning his visions, so now remaineth to story also of his pains and sufferings upon the rack, and otherwise, like a good Laurence, for the congregation's sake, as he wrote it with his own hand.


A letter of Cutbert Symson to certain of his friends.

            "A true report how I was used in the Tower of London, being sent thither by the council, the thirteenth day of December.--

            "On the Thursday after, I was called into the warehouse, before the constable of the Tower and the recorder of London, Master Cholmley: they commanded me to tell, whom I did will to come to the English service. I answered, I would declare nothing. Whereupon I was set in a rack of iron, the space of three hours as I judged.

            "Then they asked me if I would tell them. I answered as before. Then was I loosed, and carried to my lodging again. On the Sunday after I was brought into the same place again before the lieutenant and the recorder of London, and they examined me. As before I had said, I answered. Then the lientenant did swear by God I should tell. Then did they bind my two fore-fingers together, and put a small arrow betwixt them, and drew it through so fast that the blood followed, and the arrow brake.

            "Then they racked me twice. Then was I carried to my lodging again, and ten days after the lieutenant asked me, if I would not confess that which before they had asked me. I said, I had said as much as I would. Then, five weeks after, he sent me unto the high priest, where I was greatly assaulted, and at whose hand I received the pope's curse, for bearing witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And thus I commend you unto God, and to the word of his grace, with all them that unfeignedly call upon the name of Jesus, desiring God of his endless mercy, through the merits of his dear Son Jesus Christ, to bring us all to his everlasting kingdom, Amen. I praise God for his great mercy showed upon us. Sing Hosanna unto the highest, with me, Cutbert Symson. God forgive me my sins! I ask all the world forgiveness, and I do forgive all the world, and thus I leave this world, in hope of a joyful resurrection."


A note of Cutbert Symson's patience.

            Now as touching this Cutbert Symson, this further is to be noted, that Bonner in his consistory, speaking of Cutbert Symson, gave this testimony of him there to the people, saying, "Ye see this man," saith he, "what a personable man he is:" and after he had thus commended his person, added moreover, "And furthermore concerning his patience, I say unto you, that if he were not a heretic, he is a man of the greatest patience that yet ever came before me: for I tell you, he hath been thrice racked upon one day in the Tower. Also in my house he hath felt some sorrow, and yet I never saw his patience broken," &c.

            It is thought and said of some, that that arrow which was grated betwixt his fingers, being tied together, was not in the Tower, but in the bishop's house.

            The day before the blessed deacon and martyr of God, Cutbert Symson, after his painful racking, should go to his condemnation before Bonner, to be burnt, being in the bishop's coal-house there in the stocks, he had a certain vision or apparition very strange, which he himself with his own mouth declared to the godly learned man, Master Austen, to his own wife, and Thomas Symson, and to others besides, in the prison of Newgate, a little before his death; the relation whereof I stand in no little doubt whether to report abroad or not, considering with myself the great diversity of men's judgments in the reading of histories, and variety of affections. Some I see will not believe it; some will deride the same; some also will be offended with setting forth things of that sort uncertain, esteeming all things to be uncertain and incredible, whatsoever is strange from the common order of nature: others will be perchance aggrieved, thinking with themselves, or else thus reasoning with me, that although the matter were as is reported, yet forasmuch as the common error of believing rash miracles, fantasies, visions, dreams, and apparitions, thereby may be confirmed, more expedient it were the same to be unset forth.

            These, and such like, will be, I know, the sayings of many. Whereunto briefly I answer, granting first, and admitting with the words of Basil, "Not every dream is straightway a prophecy." Again, neither am I ignorant that the papists, in their books and legends of saints, have their prodigious visions and apparitions of angels, of our Lady, of Christ, and other saints; which as I will not admit to be believed for true, so will they ask me again, why should I then more require these to be credited of them, than theirs of us.

            First, I write not this, binding any man precisely to believe the same, so as they do theirs, but only report it as it hath been heard of persons known, naming also the parties who were the hearers thereof, leaving the judgment thereof, notwithstanding, free unto the arbitrement of the reader. Albeit, it is no good argument, proceeding from the singular or particular, to the universal, to say, that visions be not true in some; ergo, they be trne in none. And if any shall muse, or object again, Why should such visions be given to him, or a few other singular persons, more than to all the rest, seeing the others were in the same cause and quarrel, and died also martyrs as well as he? to this, I say, concerning the Lord's times and doings I have not to meddle nor make, who may work where and when it pleaseth him. And what if the Lord thought chiefly above the others with singular consolation to respect him, who, chiefly above the others, and singularly, did suffer most exquisite torments for his sake? What great marvel herein? But, as I said, of the Lord's secret times I have not to reason. This only which hath out of the man's own mouth been received, so as I received it of the parties, I thought here to communicate to the reader, for him to judge thereof as God shall rule his wind. The matter is this.

            The day before this Symson was condemned, he being in the stocks, Cluney his keeper cometh in with the keys about nine of the clock at night, (after his usual manner,) to view his prison, and see whether all were present, who, when he espied the said Cutbert to be there, departed again, locking the doors after him. Within two hours after, about eleven of the clock toward midnight, the said Cutbert (whether being in a slumber, or being awake, I cannot say) heard one coming in, first opening the outward door, then the second, after the third door, and so looking in to the said Cutbert, having no candle or torch that he could see, but giving a brightness and light most comfortable and joyful to his heart, saying, "Hah!" unto him, and departed again. Who it was he could not tell, neither I dare define. This that he saw, he himself declared four or five times to the said Master Austen, and to others; at the sight whereof he received such joyful comfort, that he also expressed no little solace in telling and declaring the same.


            Articles severally ministered to Cutbert Symson, the nineteenth day of March, with his answers also to the same annexed.

            "First, That thou, Cutbert Symson, art at this present abiding within the city and diocese of London, and not out of the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome.

            "Item, That thou, within the city and diocese of London, hast uttered many times and spoken deliberately, these words and sentences following: videlicet, that though thy parents, ancestors, kinsfolks, and friends, yea, and also thyself, before the time of the late schism here in this realm of England, have thought and thoughtest, that the faith and religion observed in times past here in this realm of England, was a true faith and religion of Christ, in all points and articles, though in the church it was set forth in the Latin tongue, and not in English, yet thou believest and sayest, that the faith and religion, now used commonly in this realm, not in the English, but in the Latin tongue, is not the true faith and religion of Christ, but contrary and expressly against it.

            "Item, That thou, within the said city and diocese of London, hast willingly, wittingly, and contemptuously done, and spoken against the rites and the ceremonies commonly used here through the whole realm, and observed generally in the church of England.

            "Item, That thou hast thought and believed certainly, and so within the diocese of London hast affirmed and spoken deliberately, that there be not in the catholic church seven sacraments, nor of that virtue and efficacy as is commonly believed in the church of England them to be.

            "Item, That thou hast likewise thought and believed, yea, and hast so within the city and diocese of London spoken, and deliberately affirmed, that in the sacrament of the altar there is not really, substantially, and truly, the very body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

            "Item, That thou hast been, and to thy power art at this present, a favourer of all those, that either have been here in this realm heretofore called heretics, or else convented and condemned by the ecclesiastical judges for heretics.

            "Item, That thou, contrary to the order of this realm of England, and contrary to the usage of the holy church of this realm of England, hast at sundry times and places within the city and diocese of London, been at assemblies and conventicles, where there was a multitude of people gathered together to hear the English service said, which was set forth in the latter years of King Edward the Sixth, and also to hear and have the Communion Book read, and the communion ministered, both to the said multitude, and also to thyself; and thou hast thought, and so thinkest, and hast spoken, that the said English service and Communion Book, and all things contained in either of them, were good and laudable, and for such thou didst and dost allow and approve either of them, at this present."


The answer of the said Cutbert to the foresaid articles.

            "Unto all which articles the said Cutbert Symson answered thus, or the like in effect.

            "To the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, he confessed them to be true in every part thereof.

            "To the seventh article he said, that he was not bound to answer unto it, as he believeth."


The information of Roger Sergeant, given to the bishop of London and his officers: where he accuseth divers persons, and, in the end, betrayed the congregation into the hands of the bloody butcher, as here in this information he promised to do; whereby many were apprehended also, brought into trouble, and examined, whose informations also hereafter follow.

            "Roger Sergeant, born in Buckinghamshire, tailor, of the age of forty years or above, now of the parish of St. Edmund's, in Lombard Street, saith: that at the Swan at Limehouse, or else at St. Katharine's at one Frogg's, or at the King's Head at Ratcliffe, the assembly shall be dominica tertia Adventus, between nine and eleven aforenoon, and from one till four at afternoon. And sometimes the meeting is at Horsleydown, beyond Battle-bridge. Commonly the usage is, to have all the English service without any diminishing, wholly as it was in the time of King Edward the Sixth; neither praying for the king nor the queen; despising the sacrament of the altar, and the coming to church, saying that a man cannot come to the church, except he be partaker of all the evils there.

            "They have reading and preaching, and the minister is a Scotchman, whose name he knoweth not; and they have two deacons that gather money, which is distributed to the prisoners in the Marshalsea, King's Bench, Lollards' Tower, Newgate, and to the poor that come to the assembly: some women be childbearing, and some women above sixty years of age, and divers coming more for money than aught else. This informer hath been there twice and no more but he will go thither again, that such as shall be sent" to apprehend the malefactors, may know the places and persons. Frogg a Dutchman, dwelling at St. Katharine's, is one of the assembly. Item, one Hammerton, a smith, lately dwelling in St. Katharine's. Item, one James, a cobbler, dwelling in Budge Row in Well Alley, having also a shop at St. Austin's gate in Paul's churchyard. Item, a young fellow, a butcher, dwelling in Shoreditch, whose name he knoweth not. Item, one William Ellerby, tailor, dwelling in St. Clement's Lane, by Lombard Street, in St. Edmund's parish. Item, one John Osborne, dwelling at Lambeth town, a silk-dyer."

            All these did this wicked man, the said Roger Sergeant, accuse to be of this congregation; who wretchedly, according to his promise in this information, went, like Judas with Herod's soldiers, to Islington, and there most falsely betrayed Master Rough, and Cutbert Symson, with five others, into the hands of their enemies, the day mentioned in their stories; for there it was seen of some good people that be yet alive.


The information of James Mearing.

            "Cutbert is an officer or deacon in the assembly, a rich man dwelling in London. Cluney doth know him. He is paymaster to the prisoners in the Marshalsea, Ludgate, Lollards' Tower, and in other places of prison, as the Compter, &c., and executor to the prisoners that die, and collector of the assembly when the reading is done; and had the goods of James and his wife, that were burned at Islington. And likewise one Brook in Queen-hythe, salter, and seller of earthen pots; a rich man, not coming to church; a collector also, and keeper of the money for the prisoners. Mistress Barber in Fish Street, a fishmonger's wife; Cluney knoweth her; she is also a collector for the said prisoners. The meeting sometimes is at Wapping, at one Church's house, hard by the water-side; sometimes at a widow's house at Ratcliffe, at the King's Head there; sometimes at St. Katharine's, at a shoemaker's house, a Dutchman, called Frogg. The assembly, dominica tertia Adventus, either at St. Katharine's, in Frogg's house; either at Wapping, at the said Church's house. Sometimes the assembly beginneth at seven in the morning, or at eight; sometimes at nine; and then, or soon after, they dine, and tarry till two of the clock, and, amongst other things, they talk and make officers. Sometimes the assembly is at Battle-bridge, at a dyer's house, betwixt two butchers there; despising the sacrament of the altar, the pope, the coming to church, and the priest. In that assembly there are a minister and two priests that gather money."


The information of William Ellerby, tailor.

            "William Ellerby, tailor, in St. Clement's Lane, in St. Edmund's parish, in Lombard Street, confesseth that he knoweth a Scotchman, called John Rongh, and that he hath been at the assembly kept at Ratcliffe, at the King's Head, at the widow's house there; where one Coste did read, in English, three psalms, that is to wit, Confitemini, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis, upon a Sunday, after evensong. At which assembly there were about thirty men and women whom he knew not, saving one Roger Sergeant, his own man, that went thither with him. And he saith that one Osborne, of Lambeth town, gave this examinate knowledge of the said assembly, which assembly lasted about half an hour, some sitting at the table, some standing to hear the said Scot, having three or four pots of beer before the said Scot came to the assembly at Frogg's and went to the said play. And this examinate had found in his house at Lambeth town, when the search went for him, two English books, the one a 'Psalter in English,' and the other an 'Instruction of a Christian Man.'"


The information of Elizabeth Churchman.

            "Elizabeth Churchman, the wife of John Churchman of Wapping, being examined the seventeenth day of December, 1557, before the bishop of London, at his palace at Paul's, saith, that upon a holy-day about ten days agone, there were about ten persons that came to her husband's house there, and had there a shoulder of mutton and a piece of pork roasted; and also of her they had bread and drink, and two or three faggots; coming thither before ten of the clock aforenoon, and departed about twelve of the clock. And at their departure, and the coming home of her husband, she saith, she told him of a company that had been there, who, after their refection, said grace, and one called another 'brother;' one of them having in his hand a book: and she also, as she saith, said to her husband, asking who they were; and also, that she judged that they were Scripture men, and that they were learned, and also that they should come no more thither if they were not good; and her said husband therein so concluded and agreed with her in the same.'


The information of Alice Warner, widow,.

            "Alice Warner, widow, of Ratcliffe, in the parish of Stepney, testifieth and saith: that upon a Sunday, six weeks agone, a certain company of Frenchmen, Dutchmen, and other strangers, and, amongst them, Englishmen, appearing to be young merchants, to the number of a score, resorted to her house of the King's Head at Ratcliffe; requesting to have a pig roasted, and half a dozen faggots to be burnt. In the mean time, the said company went into a back house, where they were two sundry times; the first time, between twelve and one, they were reading, but what, she cannot tell, whether it was a Testament or some other book; and they tarried there about two hours. The second time was three weeks past, upon a holy-day, about the middle of the week; at which time they repaired to her house about seven o'clock in the morning, who had a fire and beer within the said back house. And then this examinate, going abroad, did see the said multitude, and perceived that they also then did read, but what, she cannot tell; and the said multitude did tarry there from seven till ten before noon, and, at their departure, they laboured to this examinate that they might always have the said back house at their pleasure, to make good cheer at their repairing thither. Unfo which demand this examinate, as she saith, made then answer unto them, that they should pardon her, for she perceiveth that they were not able to justify their doings after that sort, and she would not bring herself into danger for none of them all. And she saith that her maid said that she judged them to be the same that were first there; and how the said multitude called one another 'brother,' and did every one, to his ability, cast money down upon the table, which was two pence a-piece. And this examinate saith, that she asked of one of the said multitude, how the said money was disposed; answer being to her by him given, that it was to the use and relief of the poor. And this examinate thinketh it was a Frenchman, or some other outlandish man, because he spake evil English."

            Thus have you the notes of such depositions as the cruel papists did extort out of poor and ignorant people by force of their oath, to complain of their innocent and harmless neighbours. Now followeth the letter of Cutbert Symson to his godly wife.


A letter of Cutbert Symson, written to his wife out of the coal-house.

            "Dearly beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ, I cannot write as I do wish unto you.

            "I beseech you with my soul, commit yourself under the mighty hand of our God, trusting in his mercy, and he will surely help us as shall be most unto his glory and our everlasting comfort; being sure of this, that he will suffer nothing to come unto us, but that which shall be most profitable for ns. For it is either a correction for our sins, or a trial of our faith, or to set forth his glory, or for all together; and therefore must needs be well done. For there is nothing that cometh unto us by fortune or chance, but by our heavenly Father's providence: and therefore pray unto our heavenly Father, that he will ever give us his grace to consider it. Let us give him most hearty thanks for these his fatherly corrections; for as many as he loveth, he correcteth. And I beseech you now be of good cheer, and count the cross of Christ greater riches than all the vain pleasures of England. I do not doubt (I praise God for it) but that you have supped with Christ at his Maundy, I mean, believed in him: for that is the effect, and then must you drink of his cup, I mean his cross (for that doth the cup signify unto us). Take the cup with a good stomach in the name of God; and then shall you be sure to have the good wine, Christ's blood, to thy poor thirsty soul. And when you have the wine, you must drink it out of this cup: learn this when you come to the Lord's supper. Pray continually. In all things give thanks.
            "In the name of Jesus shall every knee bow.
            "CUTBERT SYMSON."


Hugh Foxe and John Devenish, fellow martyrs with Cutbert Symson.

            With Cutbert likewise were apprehended and also suffered (as is before mentioned) Hugh Foxe and John Devenish; who, being brought unto their examinations with the said Cutbert, before Bonner, bishop of London, the nineteenth day of March, had articles and interrogatories to them ministered by the said officer, albeit not all at one time. For first to the said Cutbert several articles were propounded; then other articles in general were ministered to them all together. The order and manner of which articles, now jointly to them ministered, here follow, with their answers also to the same annexed to be seen.


Articles generally ministered by the bishop to Foxe, Devenish, and Symson, the said nineteenth day of March, with their answers to the same annexed.

            After these articles thus ministered and laid to Cutbert Symson, with his answers likewise unto the same, the bishop, calling them all together, objected to them other positions and articles, the same which before are mentioned in the story of Bartlet Green; only the eighth article out of the same omitted and excepted: which articles, because they are expressed in the place above mentioned, we need not here make any new report thereof, but only refer the reader to the place assigned.


Their answers in general to the articles.

            "To the first article they all answered affirmatively: but John Devenish added, that that church is grounded upon the prophets and apostles, Christ being the head corner-stone; and how in that church there is the true faith and religion of Christ.

            "To the second they all confessed and believed, that in Christ's catholic church there are but two sacraments, that is to wit, baptism and the supper of the Lord: otherwise they do not believe the contents of this article to be true in any part thereof.

            "To the third they all answered affirmatively.

            "To the fourth they all answered affirmatively.

            "To the fifth they all answered affirmatively, that they do believe, and have spoken and will speak, against the sacrifice of the mass, the sacrament of the altar, and likewise against the authority of the see of Rome; and are nothing sorry for the same, but will do it still, while they live.

            "To the sixth they all answered, and denied to acknowledge the authority of the see of Rome to be lawful and good, either yet his religion.

            "To the seventh they all answered affirmatively, that they have and will do so still while they live; and John Devenish, adding thereto, said, that the sacrament of the altar, as it is now used, is no sacrament at all.

            "To the eighth they all confessed, and believed all things, above by them acknowledged and declared, to be true; and that they be of the diocese of London, and jurisdiction of the same."

            These three above-named persons, and blessed witnesses of Jesus Christ, Cutbert, Foxe, and Devenish, as they were all together apprehended at Islington, as is above declared, so the same all three together suffered in Smithfield, about the twenty-eighth day of March, in whose perfect constancy the same Lord, in whose cause and quarrel they suffered, (giver of all grace, and governor of all things,) be exalted for ever: Amen.


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