Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 432. JOHN WHITMAN


A lamentable story of John Whitman, shoemaker, who suffered most cruel torments at Ostend in Flanders, for the testimony of Jesus Christ, and the truth of his gospel, anno 1572.

            John Whitman, shoemaker, being about the age of forty-nine years, born in Tienen, a town in Brabant, after his coming over into England, dwelt in Rye in the county of Sussex, being married twenty-three years: always a professor of the gospel, as well in the time of the freedom thereof, as in time of persecution. About Candlemas, in the year 1572, unknown to his friends in Rye, understanding of shipping in Rye, which was ready bound for Ostend in Flanders, he went aboard the Saturday morning, and arrived at Ostend that night, where he lodged with one of his kinsmen there dwelling. The next day being Sunday, in the morning he, accompanied with his said kinsman, took his journey as it were to have passed higher into the country.

            When they were about three miles on their way out of the town, suddenly Whitman staid and would go no further; but immediately returned back again to Ostend, whither so soon as he was come, it being service-time in their church, he forthwith addressed himself thither, and at the time of the heave-offering stept to the sacrificer, and took from over his head his idol, saying these words in the Dutch tongue: "Is this your god?" and so breaking it, cast it down under his feet, and trod thereon. Forthwith the people in an uproar came to lay hold on him, and hardly in the church escaped he death by the soldiers there present; but, being rescued by some to the intent to be further examined and made a public spectacle, he was carried immediately to prison. Upon the next day, being Monday, the judges and other counsellors being assembled he was brought forth into the common hall, and examined of his fact, the intent, the counsel and abettors thereof, and also of his faith: where he very constantly, in defence of his Christian faith, and great detestation of idolatry, demeaned himself in such sort, that he wrung tears from the eyes of divers, both of the chief, and others present. So was he committed again to prison.

Illustration -- Whitman's Hand Cut Off

            The next day, being Tuesday, he was brought out again before the judges into the same place. And being examined as before, he no whit abated, but increased in his constancy: whereupon sentence was given upon him to have his hand cut off, and his body scorched to death, and after to be hanged up. So the day following, being Wednesday, he was brought out of prison to the town-hall, standing in the market-place, all things belonging to execution being made ready there; which when they were all ready, the hangman went into the hall, and with a cord tied the hands of Whitman, and came out leading him thereby. So soon as Whitman was out of the house, he made such haste, and, as it were, ran so to the place of execution, that he drew the hangman after him. There was a post set up with spars from the top thereof, aslope down to the ground, in manner of a tent, to the end that he should be only scorched to death, and not burned. When he was come to the place, the hangman commanded him to lay down his right hand upon a block, which he immediately with a hatchet smote off: the good man still continuing constant, the hangman stepped behind him, and bid him put out his tongue, which he forthwith did, as far as he could out of his mouth, through the which he thrust a long instrument like a pack-needle, and so let it stick. Then the judges, standing by in the common-hall, read again his fact and sentence. Wherento he could make no answer, his tongue hanging out of his head: so was he stripped out of his cassock, his hose being put off in prison, and put within his tent, and made fast with two chains; and fire was put round about, which broiled and scorched his body most miserably, all black, he not being seen, but heard to make a noise within the tent. When he was dead, he was carried out to be hanged upon a gibbet, beside the town.


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