433. ADMONITION TO THE READER, CONCERNING THE EXAMPLES ABOVE MENTIONED.
It hath been a long persuasion, gendered in the heads of many men these many years, that to ground a man's faith upon God's word alone, and not upon the see and Church of Rome, following all the ordinances and constitutions of the same, was damnable heresy, and to persecute such men to death, was high service done to God; whereupon have risen so great persecutions, slaughters, and murders, with such effusion of Christian blood through all parts of Christendom, by the space of these seventy years, as hath not before been seen. And of these men Christ himself doth full well warn us long before, truly prophesying of such times to come, when they that slay his ministers and servants should think themselves to do good service unto God. Now what wicked service, and how detestable before God this is, which they falsely persuade themselves to be godly, what more evident demonstrations can we require, than these so many, so manifest, and so terrible examples of God's wrath pouring down from heaven upon these persecutors, whereof part we have already set forth; for to comprehend all (which in number are infinite) it is impossible. Wherefore, although there be many which will neither hear, see, nor understand, what is for their profit, yet let all moderate and well-disposed natures take warning in time. And if the plain word of God will not suffice them, nor the blood of so many martyrs will move them to embrace the truth, and forsake error, yet let the desperate deaths and horrible punishments of their own papists persuade them, how perilous is the end of this damnable doctrine of papistry. For if these papists, which make so much of their painted antiquity, do think their proceedings to be so catholic, and service so acceptable to God, let them join this withal, and tell us how come then their proceedings to be so accursed of God, and their end so miserably plagued, as by these examples above specified, is here notoriously to be seen? Again, if the doctrine of them be such heresy, whom they have hitherto persecuted for heretics unto death; how then is Almighty God become a maintainer of heretics, who hath revenged their blood so grievously upon their enemies and persecutors?
The putting out of the French king's eyes, which promised before with his eyes to see one of God's true servants burnt, who seeth not with his eyes to be the stroke of God's hand upon him? Then his son Francis after him, not regarding his father's stripe, would yet needs proceed in burning the same man: and did not the same God, which put out his father's eyes, give him such a blow on the ear, that it cost him his life?
If the platform of Stephen Gardiner had been a thing so necessary for the church, and so grateful unto God, why then did it not prosper with him, nor he with it, but both he and his platform lay in the dust, and none left behind him to build upon it?
After the time of Stephen Gardiner, and at the council of Trent, what conspiracies and policies were devised! what practices and trains were laid, through the secret confederacy of princes and prelates, for the utter subversion of the gospel and all gospellers! which if God had seen to have been for his glory, why then came they to none effect? yea, how or by whom were they disclosed and foreprised, but by the Lord himself, which would not have them come forward?
The vehement zeal of Queen Mary was like to have set up the pope here again in England for ever, if it had so much pleased the Lord God as it pleased herself; or if it had been so godly as it was bloody, no doubt but God's blessing would have gone withal. But when was the realm of England more barren of all God's blessings? what prince ever reigned here a shorter time, or less to his own heart's ease, than did Queen Mary?
The constable of France, when he covenanted with God, that if he had the victory of St. Quentin's, he would set upon Geneva, thought (no doubt) that he had made a great good bargain with God; much like unto Julian the emperor, who going against the Persians, made his vow, that if he sped well, he would offer the blood of Christians. But what did God? came not both their vows to like effect?
The examples of such as revolted from the gospel to papistry be not many; but as few as they were, scarce can any be found which began to turn to the pope, but the Lord began to turn from them, and to leave them to their ghostly enemy; as we have heard of Francis Spira, a lawyer of Italy, of the king of Navarre in France, of Henry Smith and Dr. Shaxton in England, with others in other countries, of whom some died in great sorrow of conscience, some in miserable doubt of their salvation, some stricken by God's hand, some driven to hang or drown themselves.
The stinking death of Stephen Gardiner, of John de Roma, of Twyford, of the bailiff of Crowland; the sudden death of Thornton, the suffragan of Dover, called Dick of Dover; of Dr. Dunning, of Dr. Jeffrey, of Beard the promoter; the miserable and wretched end of Poncher, archbishop of Tours, of Cardinal Crescentius, Castellanus; the desperate disease of Rockwood, of Latomus, of Guarlacus; the earthly ending of Henry Beaufort, cardinal of Winchester, of Eckius; the wilful and self-murder of Pavier, of Richard Long, of Bomelius, besides infinite others; the dreadful taking away and murrain of so many persecuting bishops, so many bloody promoters and malicious adversaries, in such a short time together with Queen Mary, and that without any man's hand, but only by the secret working of God's just judgment.
Illustration -- The Buriasl of Bishop Bonner
To these add also, the stinking death of Edmund Bonner, commonly named the bloody bishop of London; who, not many years ago, in the time and reign of Queen Elizabeth, after he had long feasted and banqueted in durance at the Marshalsea, as he wretchedly died in his blind popery, so as stinkingly and blindly, at midnight, was he brought out and buried in the outside of all the city, amongst thieves and murderers, a place right convenient for such a murderer; with confusion and derision both of men and children, who, trampling upon his grave, well declared how he was hated both of God and man.
What else be all these, I say, but plain visible arguments, testimonies, and demonstrations even from heaven, against the pope, his murdering religion, and his bloody doctrine? For who can deny their doings not to be good, whose end is so evil? If Christ bid us to know men by their fruits, and especially seeing by the end all things are to be tried, how can the profession of that doctrine please God, which endeth so ungodly? Esaias, prophesying of the end of God's enemies, which would needs walk in the light of their own setting up, and not in the light of the Lord's kindling, threateneth to them this final malediction, "In sorrow shall ye sleep."
Let us now take a survey of all those persecutors, which of late have so troubled the earth, (and almost have burned up the world with faggots and fire, for maintenance of the pope's religion,) and see what the end hath been of them that are now gone, and whither their religion hath brought them, but either to destruction, or desperation, or confusion and shame of life. So many great doctors and bishops have cried out of late so mightily against priests' marriage; and have they not, by God's just judgment, working their confusion, been detected themselves, and taken the most part of them in sinful adultery, and shameful fornication? Cardinal John de Crema, the pope's legate here in England, after he had set a law that priests should have no wives, was he not the next day after, being taken with his whores, driven out of London with confusion and shame enough, so that afterwards he durst not show his face here any more? besides the two bishops in the late council of Trent most shamefully taken in adultery, mentioned before. Also, besides innumerable other like foreign stories, which I let pass, to come now to our own domestical examples, I could well name half a score at least of famous doctors, and some bishops, with their great masters of popery, who, in standing earnestly against the marriages of priests, have afterward been taken in such dishonest facts themselves, that not only they have carried the public shame of adulterous lecherers, but some of them the marks also of burning fornication with them in their bodies to their graves: whose names although I suffer here to be suppressed, yet the examples of them may suffice to admonish all men that be wise, and which will avoid the wrath of God's terrible vengeance, to beware of popery.
And thus, having hitherto recited so many shameful lives and desperate ends of so many popish persecutors stricken by God's hand; now let us consider again, on the contrary side, the blessed ends given of Almighty God unto them, which have stood so manfully in the defence of Christ's gospel, and the reformation of his religion; and let the papists themselves here be judges. First, what a peaceable and heavenly end made the worthy servant and singular organ of God, Martin Luther!
To speak likewise of the famous John, duke of Saxony and prince elector, of the good palsgrave, of Philip Melancthon, of Pomerane, Urbane Regius, Berengarius, of Ulricus Zuinglius, colampadius, Pellicane, Capito, Munster, John Calvin, Peter Martyr, Martin Bucer, Paulus Phagius, John Musculus, Bibliander, Gesner, Hofman, Augustine Marloratus; Lewis of Bourbon, prince of Conde, and his godly wife before him; with many more, which were known to be learned men, and chief standards of the gospel side against the pope; and yet no man able to bring forth any one example either of these, or of any other true gospeller, that either killed himself, or showed forth any signification or appearance of despair; but full of hope and constant in faith, and replenished with the fruit of righteousness in Christ Jesus, so yielded they their lives in quiet peace unto the Lord.
From these foreigners, let us come now to the martyrs of England, and mark likewise the end both of them, and semblably of all others of the same profession. And first, to begin with the blessed and heavenly departure of King Edward the Sixth, that first put down the mass in England, and also of the like godly end of his good uncle the duke of Somerset, which died before him, with an infinite number of other private persons besides, of the like religion, in whose final departing no such blemish is to be noted, like to the desperate examples of them above recited. Let us now enter the consideration of the blessed martyrs, who although they suffered in their bodies, yet rejoiced they in their spirits; and albeit they were persecuted of men, yet were they comforted of the Lord with such inward joy and peace of conscience, that some, writing to their friends, professed they were never so merry before in all their lives, some leaped for joy, some for triumph would put on their scarfs, some their wedding garment, going to the fire; others kissed the stake, some embraced the faggots, some clapt their hands, some sang psalms; universally they all forgave and prayed for their enemies; no murmuring, no repining was ever heard amongst them: so that most truly might be verified in them, which their persecutors were wont to sing in their hymns,
Cęduntur gladiis more bidentium,
Non murmur resonat, nec querimonia:
Sed corde tacito mens bene conscia
Conservat patientiam, &c.
Briefly, so great was their patience, or rather so great was God's Spirit in them, that some of them, in the flaming fire, moved no more than the stake whereunto they were tied. In fine, in them most aptly agreed the special tokens which most certainly follow the true children of God; that is, outward persecution, and inward comfort in the Holy Ghost. In the world (saith Christ our Saviour) ye shall have affliction; but in me ye shall have peace, &c.
And likewise the words of St. Paul be plain: Whosoever, saith he, studieth to live godly in Christ, shall suffer persecution.
But then, what followeth with this persecution? The said apostle again thus declareth, saying, As the passions of Christ abound in us, so aboundeth also our consolation by Christ, &c.; according as by the examples of these godly martyrs right perfectly we may perceive. For as their bodies outwardly lacked no persecutions by the hands of the wicked, so, amongst so many hundreds of them that stood and died in this religion, what one man can be brought forth, which either hath been found to have killed himself, or to have died otherwise than the true servant of God, in quiet peace, and much comfort of conscience?
Which being so, what greater proof can we have to justify their cause and doctrine against the persecuting Church of Rome, than to behold the ends of them both? first, of the protestants, how quietly they took their death, and cheerfully rested in the Lord; and contrariwise, to mark these persecutors, what a wretched end commonly they do all come unto. Experience whereof we have sufficient in the examples above declared, and also of late in Bonner, who albeit he died in his bed unrepentant, yet was it so provided by God, that as he had been a persecutor of the light, and a child of darkness, so his carcass was tumbled into the earth in obscure darkness, at midnight, contrary to the order of all other Christians; and as he had been a murderer, so was he laid amongst thieves and murderers, a place by God's judgment rightly appointed for him.
And albeit some peradventure, that have been notable persecutors in times past, do yet remain alive, who, being in the same cause as the others were, have not yet felt the weight of God's mighty hand, yet let not them think, that because the judgment of God hath lighted sooner upon others, therefore it will never light upon them; or because God of his mercy hath granted them space to repent, let not them therefore of God's lenity build to themselves an opinion of indemnity. The blood of Abel cried long, yet wrought at length. The souls of the saints slain under the altar were not revenged at the first. But read forth the chapter, and see what followed in the end. Blood, especially of Christ's servants, is a perilous matter, and crieth sore in the ears of God, and will not be stilled with the laws of men.
Wherefore let such blood-guilty homicides beware, if not by counsel, at least by the examples of their fellows. And though princes and magistrates, under whose permission they are suffered, do spare their lives, let them not think therefore, (as some of them shame not to say,) that man hath no power to hurt them; and so think to escape unpunished, because they be not punished by man; but rather let them fear so much the more. For, oftentimes, such as have been persecutors and tormentors to God's children, God thinketh them not worthy to suffer by man, but either reserveth them to his own judgment, or else maketh them to be their own persecutors, and their own bands most commonly hangmen to their own bodies.
So Saul, after he had persecuted David, it was unneedful for David to pursue him again: for he was revenged of him, more than he desired. It was needless to cause Ahithophel to be hanged; for he himself was the stifler or strangler of his own life.
Neither for the apostles to pursue Judas that betrayed their Master; for he himself was his own hangman, and no man else, that his body burst, and his guts burst out.
Sennacherib, had he not for his persecutors his own sons, and it cost Hezekiah nothing to be revenged of him for his tyranny.
Antiochus and Herod, although the children of God, whom they so cruelly persecuted, laid no hands upon them, yet they escaped not unpunished of God's hand, who sent lice and worms to be their tormentors, which consumed and eat them up.
Pilate, after he had crucified Christ our Saviour, within few years after was he not driven to hang himself?
Nero, after his cruel murders and persecutions stirred up against the Christians, when he should have been taken by the Romans, God thought him not so worthy to be punished by the hands of them, but so disposed the matter, that Nero himself, when he could find no friend nor enemy to kill him, made his own hands to be his own cut-throat.
Dioclesian, with Maximinian his fellow emperor, which were the authors of the tenth and last persecution against the Christians, being in the midst of their furious tyranny against the name of Christ, needed no man's help, to bridle them and pluck them back: for God, of his secret judgment, put such a snaffle in the mouths of these tyrants, that they themselves, of their own accord, deposed and disposes hemselves of their imperial function, and lived as private persons all their lives after: and notwithstanding that Maximinian, after that, sought to resume his imperial state again, yet by Maxentius his son he was resisted, and shortly after slain.
What should I here speak of the cruel emperor Maximinus? who, when he had set forth his proclamation engraven in brass, for the utter abolishing of Christ and his religion, was not punished by man, but had lice and vermin gushing out of his entrails, to be his tormentors; with such a rotten stench laid upon his body, that no physicians could abide to come near, and was caused to be slain for the same.
Maxentius the son of Maximinian, and Pharaoh the King of Egypt, as they were both like enemies against God and his people, so drank they both of one cup, not perishing by any man's hand, but both in like manner, after, were drowned with their harness in the water. Furthermore, and briefly in this matter to conclude, if the kings among the Jews, which were bloody and wicked, were not spared, as Ahaz, Ahab, Jezebel, Manasseh, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, with many others, but had at length, although it were long, the hire of their iniquity: let not these bloody catholics then think, which have been persecutors of Christ's saints, that they, being in the same cause as the others above recited were, shall escape the same judgment, which the longer it is deferred, the sorer many times it striketh, unless by due repentance it be prevented in time; which I pray God it may.
Innumerable examples more to the same effect and purpose might be inferred, whereof plentiful store we have in all places, and in all ages of men, to be collected. But these hitherto for this present may suffice, which I thought here to notify unto these our bloody children of the murdering mother Church of Rome, of whom it may well be said, "Your hands be full of blood," &c.; to the intent that they, by the examples of their other fellows before mentioned, may be admonished to follow the prophet's counsel which followeth, and biddeth, "Be you washed, and make yourselves clean," &c.; and not to presume too far upon their own security, nor think themselves the further off from God's hand, because man's hand forbeareth them.
I know and grant, that man hath no further power upon any, than God from above doth give. And what the laws of this realm could make against them, as against open murderers, I will not here discuss, nor open that I could say (because they shall not say that we desire their blood to be spilt, but rather to be spared): but yet this I say, and wish them well to understand, that the sparing of their lives, which have been murderers of so many, is not for want of power in magistrates, nor for lack of any just law against them, whereby they might justly have been condemned, if it had so pleased the magistrates to proceed (as they might) against them; but because Almighty God, peradventure, in his secret purpose, having something to do with these persecutors, hath spared them hitherto; not that they should escape unpunished, but that peradventure he will take his own cause into his own hand, either by death to take them away, (as he did by Bonner, and by all promoters in a manner of Queen Mary's time,) or else to make them to persecute themselves with their own hands; or will stir up their conscience to be their own confusion, in such sort as the church shall have no need to lay any hands upon them.
Wherefore, with this short admonition to close up the matter, as I have exhibited in these histories the terrible ends of so many persecutors plagued by God's hand; so would I wish all such whom God's lenity suffereth yet to live, this wisely to ponder with themselves: that as their cruel persecution hurteth not the saints of God, whom they have put to death, so the patience of Christ's church, suffering them to live, doth not profit them, but rather heapeth the greater judgment of God upon them in the day of wrath, unless they repent in time; which I pray God they may.