Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 92. JOHN PURVEY.


Furthermore, in the said examination of William Thorpe, mention is made, as ye heard, of John Purvey, of whom also something we touched before; promising of the said John Purvey more particularly to treat, in order and process of time. Of this Purvey, Thomas Walden writeth thus in his second tome: "John Purvey," saith he, "was the brary of Lollards, and glosser upon Wickliff. He said that the worshipping of Abraham was but a salutation." And in his third tome he saith, "This John Purvey, with Herford, a doctor of divinity, were grievously tormented and punished in the prison of Saltwood, and at the length recanted at Paul's Cross at London; Thomas Arundel being then archbishop of Canterbury. Afterward again, he was imprisoned under Henry Chichesley, archbishop of Canterbury, in the year of our Lord 1421." Thus much writeth Walden. The works of this man which he wrote, were gathered by Richard Lavingham, his adversary, which I think worthy to be remembered. First, as touching the sacrament of the last supper, the sacrament of penance, the sacrament of orders, the power of the keys, the preaching of the gospel, of marriages, of vows, of possessions, of the punishing and correcting of the clergy, of the laws and decrees of the church, of the state and condition of the pope and the clergy; of all these generally be left divers monuments gravely and exactly written, part whereof here in the end of his story we thought to exhibit, being translated out of Latin into English.

The articles which he taught, and afterwards was forced to recant at Paul's Cross, were these hereafter following:

"1. That in the sacrament of the altar, after the consecration, there is not, neither can be, any accident without the subject; but there verily remaineth the same substance, and the very visible and corruptible bread, and likewise the very same wine, the which, before the consecration, were set upon the altar to be consecrate of the priest; likewise as when a pagan or infidel is baptized, he is spiritually converted into a member of Christ through grace, and yet remaineth the very same man which he before was, in his proper nature and substance.

"2. That auricular confession, or private penance, is a certain whispering, destroying the liberty of the gospel, and newly brought in by the popeand the clergy, to entangle the consciences of men in sin, and to draw their souls into hell.

"3. That every layman being holy and predestinate unto everlasting life, albeit he be a layman, yet is he a true priest before God.

"4. That divers prelates and other of the clergy do live wickedly, contrary to the doctrine and example of Christ and his apostles: therefore they which so live have not the keys either of the kingdom of heaven, or yet of hell; neither ought any Christian to esteem his censure any more than as a thing of no force. Yea, albeit the pope should, peradventure, interdict the realm, yet could he not hurt, but rather profit us, forasmuch as thereby we should be dismissed from the observation of his laws, and from saying of service according to the custom of the church.

"5. That if any man do make an oath or vow, to keep perpetual chastity, or do any thing else whereunto God hath not appointed him, giving him grace to perform his purpose, the same vow or oath is unreasonable and indiscreet, neither can any prelate compel him to keep the same, except he will do contrary unto God's ordinance. But he ought to commit him unto the governance of the Holy Ghost and of his own conscience; forasmuch as every man, which will not fulfil his vow or oath, cannot do it for that cause.

"6. That whosoever taketh upon him the office of priesthood, although he have not the charge of souls committed unto him according to the custom of the church, not only may, but ought, to preach the gospel freely unto the people; otherwise he is a thief, excommunicated of God, and of the holy church.

"7. That Innocent the Third, pope, and six hundred bishops, and a thousand other prelates, with all the rest of the clergy, which together with the same pope agreed and determined, that in the sacrament of the altar, after the conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, the accidents of the said bread and wine do remain there without any proper subject of the same; the which also ordained, that all Christians ought to confess their sins once a year unto a proper priest, and to receive the reverend sacrament at Easter, and made certain other laws at the same time: all they, saith he, in so doing, were fools and blockheads, heretics, blasphemers, and seducers of Christian people. Wherefore we ought not to believe the determinations of them, or of their successors; neither ought we to obey their laws or ordinances, except they be plainly grounded upon the Holy Scripture, or upon some reason which cannot be impugned."

Other articles drawn out of Purvey's books more at large, by Richard Lavingham.

"As touching the sacrament of thanksgiving, he saith, That that chapter of repentance and remission, Omnis utriusque sexus, wherein it is ordained that every faithful man ought once every year at the least, that is to say, at Easter, to receive the sacrament of the eucharist, is a beastly thing, heretical and blasphemous.

"Item, That Innocent the Third, pope, was the head of antichrist, who, after the letting loose of Satan, invented a new article of our faith, and a certain feigned verity touching the sacrament of the altar; that is to say, that the sacrament of the altar is an accident without a substance, or else a heap of accidents without a substance: but Christ and his apostles do teach manifestly, that the sacrament of the altar is bread and the body of Christ together, after the manner that he spake. And in that he calleth it bread, he would have the people to understand, as they ought with reason, that it is very and substantial bread, and no false nor feigned bread.

"And although Innocent, that antichrist, doth allege, that in the Council of Lyons, where this matter was decided, were six hundred bishops with him, and one thousand prelates, which were in one opinion of this determination, all those notwithstanding he calleth fools, according to that saying of Eccles. i., Of fools there are an infinite number. And so in like manner he calleth them false Christs and false prophets, of whom Christ speaketh in the 24th of Matthew, Many false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and deceive many. And therefore every Christian man ought to believe firmly, that the sacrament of the altar is very bread indeed, and no false nor feigned bread. And although it be very bread indeed, yet, notwithstanding, it is the very body of Christ in that sort he spake, and called it his body; and so it is very bread, and the very body of Christ. And as Christ, concerning his humanity was both visible and passible, and by his Divinity was invisible and impassible; so likewise this sacrament, in that it is very bread, may be seen with the corporal eye, and may also abide corruption. But although a man may see that sacrament, yet notwithstanding cannot the body of Christ in that sacrament be seen with the corporal eye, although it be the body of Christ in that manner he spake it; for, that notwithstanding, the body of Christ is now incorruptible in heaven. So the sacrament of the cup is very wine, and the very blood of Christ, according as his manner of speaking was. Also, Innocent the Third, with a great multitude of his secular clerks, made a certain new determination, That the sacrament of the altar is an accident without a substance, whereas neither Jesus Christ, nor any of his apostles, taught this faith, but openly and manifestly to the contrary, neither yet the holy doctors, for the space of a thousand years and more, taught this faith openly.

"Therefore when antichrist, or any of his shavelings, doth ask of thee that art a simple Christian, whether that this sacrament be the very body of Christ or not? affirm thou it manifestly so to be. And if he ask of thee whether it be material bread, or what other bread else? say thou, that it is such bread as Christ understood and meant by his proper word; and such bread as the Holy Ghost meant in St. Paul, when he called that to be very bread which he brake; and wade thou no further therein. If he ask thee how this bread is the body of Christ? say thou, As Christ understood the same to be his body, which is both omnipotent and true, and in whom is no untruth; say thou also as the holy doctors do say, That the terrestrial matter or substance may be converted into Christ, as the pagan or infidel may be baptized, and hereby spiritually be converted, and be a member of Christ, and so, after a certain manner, become Christ, and yet the same man remain still in his proper nature. For so doth St. Augustine grant that a sinner, forsaking his sin, and being made one spirit with God by faith, grace, and charity, may be converted into God, and be, after a manner, God, as both David and St. John do testify, and yet be the same person in substance and nature, and in soul and virtue be altered and changed. But yet men of more knowledge and reason may more plainly convince the falsity of antichrist, both in this matter and in others, by the gift of the Holy Ghost working in them. Notwithstanding, if those that be simple men will humbly hold and keep the manifest and apparent words of the Holy Scripture, and the plain sense and meaning of the Holy Ghost, and proceed no further, but humbly commit that unto the Spirit of God, which passeth their understanding; then may they safely offer themselves to death, as true martyrs of Jesus Christ.

"As touching the sacrament of penance, that chapter by which a certain new-found auricular confession was ordained, is full of hypocrisy, heresy, covetousness, pride, and blasphemy, he saith; and reproveth the same chapter, and that by the sentences of the same process: also, that the penance and pains limited by the canons be unreasonable and unjust, for the austerity and rigorousness which they contain, more than are taxed by God's law. He also doth exemplify of the solemn and public denial of penitents to be received into orders, according to the decree of the general council: also of the sevenfold penitence of a priest committing fornication, according to the chapter, Presbyter, Dist. 82. And further he showeth another example of the penitence of priests, according to that chapter, Qui presbyterium, &c., where the decretal of the general council saith, That such a one ought to remain continuing his life in the wars, and not to marry; and how Innocent the Third brought, in a new-found confession, whereby the priests do oppress the simple laymen; and that many other things they do, compelling them to confess themselves to blind and ignorant priests, in whom is nothing else but pride and covetousness, having such in contempt as are learned and wise. Also, that the decretal of Innocent the Third, touching the aforesaid auricular or vocal confession, was brought in and invented to intricate and entangle men's consciences with sin, and to draw them down to hell; and furthermore, that such manner of confession destroyeth the evangelical liberty, and doth let men to inquire after and to retain the wise counsel and doctrine of such as be good priests, which know faithfully how to observe his precepts and commandments, and which would willingly teach the people the right way to heaven: for which abuse all Christian men, and especially all Englishmen, ought to exclaim against such wicked laws.

"As touching the sacrament of order, Purvey saith, That all good Christians are predestinate and be ordained of God, and made true priests to offer Christ in themselves, and to Christ themselves; as also to teach and preach the gospel to their neighbours, as well in word, as in example of living. But the worldly shavelings do more magnify the naked and bare signs of priesthood, invented by sinful men, than the true and perfect priesthood of God, grounded by a true and lively faith, annexed with good works. Also, if it were needful to have such shavelings, God knoweth how, and can make, when it pleaseth him, priests (without man's working and sinful signs; that is to say, without either sacraments or characters) to be known and discerned of the people by their virtuous life and example, and by their true preaching of the law of God; for so made he the first-made priests and elders before the law of Moses; and so made he Moses a priest before Aaron, and before the ceremonies of the law, without man's operation at all; and even so hath God made all such as are predestinate, to be his priests. But such as be true Christians receive none such as priests, unless they follow Christ and his apostles; neither do they believe that they make the sacrament of the altar, which they affirm to be God's body, when it pleaseth them, lest haply God be not with them, forasmuch as they do this thing for covetousness' sake, or else to brag of their own power. And therefore, such as be simple men will worship that sacrament in this doubtfulness, with a silent condition, that is, if it be made by God's authority, and have their devotion to the body of Christ in heaven. Also, that such as be elders, if they be God's priests, be bishops, prelates, and curates of their Christian brethren, whom they may lead to heaven by the example of their holy conversation, and by preaching of the gospel, although they make no sacrifice to that antichrist of Rome for their confirmation; neither be they dedicated to the world by secular divine things, and by consuming the livings of the poor, as be those secular bishops, prelates, and curates. Also, that although there were no pope, according as the custom of the church is, yet Christ, which is the Head of his church, doth ordain such a pope as pleaseth him; and that is, whosoever is most humble and lowly, and best doth the office of a true priest, although he be unknown to the world; and although there were no such proud bishop above all the rest as the church doth use, yet all the priests might well govern the church by common assent, as once they did, before such worldly pride crept in amongst the bishops, &c. And, admit that no such priests were according to the accustomed use now of receiving of order and tonsure by such a mitred bishop and his tonsure, yet Christ knoweth both how to make and choose such as shall well please him both in conversation of life and sincere preaching of the gospel, in ministering to his people all necessary sacraments. And every holy man which is a minister of Christ, although he be not shaven, is a true priest ordained of God, although no mitred bishop ever laid his character upon him: so that the pope and prelates do make more estimation of their characters (as tonsures and crowns by them invented) than of the true and perfect priesthood ordained of God; whereas all those that are predestinate, are true priests made of him.

"As touching the authority of the keys and censures, no Christian man ought to esteem Satan, whom men call the pope, and his unjust censures, more than the hissing of a serpent, or the blast of Lucifer. Also, that no man ought to trust or put confidence in the false indulgences of covetous priests, which indulgences do draw away the hope which men ought to repose in God, to a sort of sinful men, and do rob the poor of such alms as is given to them. Such priests be manifest betrayers of Christ and of the whole church, and be Satan's own stewards, to beguile Christian souls by their hypocrisy and feigned pardons. Also, forasmuch as those prelates and clergymen lived so execrable a life, contrary to the gospel of Christ and examples of his apostles, and teach not truly the gospel, but only lies and the traditions of sinful, wicked men, it appeareth most manifestly, that they have not the keys of the kingdom of heaven, but rather the keys of hell; and they may be right well assured that God never gave unto them authority to make and establish so many ceremonies and traditions, which be contrary to the liberty of the gospel, and are blocks in Christian men's ways, that they can neither know nor observe the same his gospel in liberty of conscience, and so attain a ready way to heaven.

"Also, that all manner of religious men, notwithstanding the chapter Religiosi, touching the privileges in the Clementines, may lawfully minister all sacraments to them that are worthy the same; forasmuch as the same is a work of charity, which only the will and ordinance of the pope and his abettors in this case is to hinder and let. Item, If the pope shall interdict this our realm, that cannot hurt us, but much profit us, because that thereby he should separate us from all his wicked laws, and from the charges of sustaining of so many thousand shavelings, which, with small devotion, or none at all, patter and chatter a new-found song, Secundum usum Sarum: so that not whatsoever the pope in his general council bindeth on earth, is bound of God in heaven, either for that he bindeth unreasonably, and contradictorily doth against himself, or else, for that he hath forsaken the judgment of God.

"As touching the preaching of the gospel, whosoever receiveth or taketh upon him the office of a priest, or of a bishop, and dischargeth not the same by the example of his good conversation and faithful preaching of the gospel, is a thief, excommunicated of God, and of holy church. And further, if the curates preach not the word of God, they shall be damned; and if they know not how to preach, they ought to resign their benefices: so that those prelates which preach not the gospel of Christ, although they could excuse themselves from the doing of any other evil, are dead in themselves, are antichrists, and Satans transfigured into angels of light, night-thieves, man-quellers by daylight, and betrayers of Christ's people.

"Concerning the sacrament of matrimony: notwithstanding any spiritual kindred or gossopry, a man and woman may lawfully marry together by the law of God, without any dispensation papistical. And in the same place he saith, that if our realm do admit one not born in matrimony, or illegitimate, to the imperial crown, so that he doth well discharge the office of a king, God maketh him a king, and by consequence doth reject another king or heir of the kingdom, being born in matrimony and legitimate: so for such spiritual kindred there ought no divorce to be made. Also, notwithstanding if any man shall make any contract with any woman by the words of the future tense, by an oath taken, and afterwards shall with another woman make the like contract by the words of the present tense, that then the second contract standeth. Also, if a man make any contract with a woman by the words of the future tense, upon his oath taken, and maketh afterwards the like contract with another, not altering the words, and hath carnal connexion upon the same, the first contract maketh the matrimony good, and not the second. Also if a man, before witness, assure himself to a woman by a contract made in the present tense, and hath children by the same woman, and afterwards the same man marrieth another woman, with the like words in the present tense before witness, although the first witnesses be dead, or, else by bribes corrupt, and the second bring his witnesses before the judge to prove the second contract, the first contract yet standeth in force, although the pope, allowing the second contract, doth compel them to live in adultery against the commandment of God. Also he condemneth the decretal of the restitution of things stolen, which willeth, that a man and woman having carnal connexion in the degree of consanguinity forbidden, and hath no witness hereof, if the woman will depart from the man, she shall be compelled by the censures to remain with him, and to yield her debt. Also, in case where a man hath made contract with two women, with one secretly, having no witness, and with the other openly, having witness, then were it better to acknowledge the insufficiency of the law, and to suffer men to be ruled by their own consciences, than by the censures to compel them to commit and live in adultery.

"As touching the keeping and making of vows: that vow or oath is beastly, and is without discretion made, which to perform and keep a man hath no power, but by grace given him of God; because that some such there be, whom God not doth accept to persevere in the state of chastity and perpetual virginity; and such a one cannot keep his vow, although he make the same. Also, that every one making a vow of continency or chastity, when, making the same, he shall not be accepted of God, doth very indiscreetly, and as one without all reason maketh the same, when he is not able of himself, without the gift of God, to fulfil his promise, according to that saying of the wise man, chap. viii., No man hath the gift of continency, unless that God give it unto him: for otherwise, if God help not such a one to perform the vow or oath which he hath made and taken, no prelate can compel him, unless he do contrary to God's ordinance; but he ought to commit himself to the government of God's Holy Spirit and his own conscience.

"For the possessions of the church, in another treatise it is declared, how the king, the lords, and commons, may, without any charge at all, keep fifteen garrisons, and find fifteen thousand soldiers, (having sufficient lands and revenues to live upon,) out of the temporalties gotten into the hands of the clergy, and feigned religious men, which never do that which pertaineth to the office of curates to do, nor yet to secular lords. And, moreover, the king may have, every year, twenty thousand pounds to come freely into his coffers, and above. Also he may find or sustain fifteen colleges more, and fifteen thousand priests and clerks with sufficient living, and a hundred hospitals for the sick, and every house to have one hundred marks in lands. And all this may they take of the aforesaid temporalties, without any charge to the realm; whereunto the king, the lords, and the commons are to be invited: for otherwise, there seemeth to hang over our heads a great and marvellous alteration of this realm, unless the same be put in execution. Also, if the secular priests and feigned religious, which be simoniacs and heretics, which feign themselves to say mass, and yet say none at all, according to the canons, which to their purpose they bring and allege, by which chapter such priests and religious do not make the sacrament of the altar: that then all Christians, especially all the founders of such abbeys, and endowers of bishoprics, priories, and chantries, ought to amend this fault and treason committed against their predecessors, by taking from them such secular dominions which are the maintenance of all their sins: and also, that Christian lords and princes are bound to take away from the clergy such secular dominion as nousleth and nourisheth them in heresies, and ought to reduce them unto the simple and poor life of Christ Jesus and his apostles.

"And further, that all Christian princes, if they will amend the malediction and blasphemy of the name of God, ought to take away their temporalties from that shaven generation, which most of all doth nourish them in such malediction. And so in like wise the fat tithes from churches appropriate to rich monks, and other religious, feigned by manifest lying, and other unlawful means; likewise ought to debar their gold to the proud priest of Rome, which doth poison all Christendom with simony and heresy. Further, that it is a great abomination that bishops, monks, and other prelates, be so great lords in this world; whereas Christ, with his apostles and disciples, never took upon them secular dominion, neither did they appropriate unto them churches, as these men do, but led a poor life, and gave a good testimony of their priesthood. And therefore, all Christians ought, to the uttermost of their power and strength, to swear that they will reduce such shavelings to the humility and poverty of Christ and his apostles; and whosoever doth not thus, consenteth to their heresy. Also, that these two chapters of the immunity of churches are to be condemned, that is, cap. Non minus, and cap. Adversus; because they do decree, that temporal lords may neither require tallages nor tenths of any ecclesiastical persons.

"Now to the correction of the clergy. By the law of God, and by reason, the king and all other Christians may take revenge of Italy, and of all the false priests and clerks within the same, and reduce them unto the humble ordinance of Jesus Christ. Also, that the law of Silvester the pope, is contrary to the law of Christ, and either Testament: and that proud and ambitious Silvester, by his law, so defended two cardinals which were not to be defended by the law of Christ, that by no means they might be convinced, although they were both vicious and evil: and although Christ sustained and suffered the judgment of unjust temporal judges, our mitred prelates in these days so magnify themselves beyond Christ and his apostles, that they refuse and will none of such judgments. Also, that those decretals of accusations, which do prohibit that any clerks should be brought before a secular judge to receive judgment, do contain both heresy, blasphemy, and error, and bring great gain and commodity to antichrist's coffers.

"Furthermore, that all Christian kings and lords ought to exclaim against the pope and those that be his abettors, and banish them out of their lands, till such time as they will obey God and his gospel, kings, and other ministers of God's justice. Also, that bishops and their favourers, that say it appertaineth not to kings and secular lords, but unto them and their officials, to punish adultery and fornication, do fall into manifest treason against the king, and heresy against the Scripture. Also, that it appertaineth to the king to have the order both of priests and bishops, as these kings Solomon and Jehoshaphat had.

"Furthermore, that chapter by the which secular judges are forbidden, without the bishop's commandment, to condemn any clerk to death, is manifestly against the Holy Scripture, declaring that kings have power over clerks and priests, to punish them for their deserved crimes. Also, that the decree of Boniface, made against the prosecutors, strikers, and imprisoners of cardinals, is contrary both to the Holy Scripture, and to all reason. Also, that by the law of God and reason, a secular lord may lawfully take a cardinal and put him in prison for committing the crime of open simony, adultery, and manifest blasphemy. Also, that the chapter which saith that the pope ought to be judged of none, unless he be devius a fide, is contrary to the gospel, which saith, If thy brother sin against thee, correct him. Also, whereas St. Gregory and St. Augustine called themselves the servants of God's servants, this proud bishop of Rome, which will not be judged by his subjects, (which be in very deed his lords, if they be just and good men,) doth destroy the order of God's law, and all humility, and doth extol himself above God and his apostles. Also, that Christian kings ought not only to judge this proud bishop of Rome, but also to depose him, by the example that Cestrensis, lib. 6. cap. 8, declareth of Otho the emperor, which deposed John the Twelfth, and did institute Leo in his place. And further, he maketh an exhortation to the princes to judge the Church of Rome, which he calleth the great and cursed strumpet, of whom St. John writeth in the Apocalypse, chap. xviii.

Lastly, touching the laws and determinations of the church, Christians have reasonable excuses and causes to repel the statutes of the pope and of his shavelings, which be not expressly grounded on the Holy Scriptures, or else upon reason inevitable. Also he saith, That such secular men as do not receive the sacrament of the altar at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, are not to be counted amongst the number of Christians, nor are to be esteemed as Christians; whereby it followeth that all clerks and laymen that observe not the same, it seemeth they go straight to hell. But if this law be of no force, for that the custom and use in receiving is contrary to the same, then may we bless such rebellion and disobedience to the pope and his law; for otherwise we should flee to hell without any stay or let. Whereby we may conclude, that all Christians ought well to practise this school of disobedience against the pope and all his laws, (not founded upon the Holy Scripture,) which do let men to climb to heaven by the keeping of charity, and the liberty of the gospel. Also, that Christian men have great cause to refuse the laws and statutes of these worldly clerks, which the people call the papal laws and bishop-like statutes, for the covetousness and voluptuousness of them; without the which the church and congregation of God might safely run towards heaven by the sweet yoke of the Lord, as it did a thousand years before the said laws were prescribed and sent to the universities, and withdrew men from studying of the Holy Scripture, for the desire of benefices and worldly goods. Also,that simple men do reverently receive the sentences of the doctors and other laws, so far forth as they be expressly grounded upon the Holy Scripture or good reason. Also, that whereas the pope's laws, and laws of his ministers and clerks, be both contrary to themselves, and have not their foundation either upon the Scripture, or yet upon reason, simple men ought to bid them farewell. Also, that when all the apostles' faith failed them in the time of the Lord's passion, faith then rested in the blessed Virgin, much more might that proud priest of Rome, with all his rabble, easily err in the faith; and yet is the Christian faith preserved whole and safe in the faithful members of Christ, which are his true church; but the pope and all his rabblement cannot prove that they be any part of his church. Also that the pope, with all his supporters, may as well be deceived by a lying spirit, as was Ahab and all his prophets; and that one true prophet, as was Micaiah, may have the verity showed unto him, contra concilium. Also, that all good Christians ought to cast from them the pope's laws, saying, Let us break their bands in sunder, and let us cast from our necks those heavy yokes of theirs. Also, that where these prelates do burn one good book, for one error, perhaps, contained in the same, they ought to burn all the books of the canon law, for the manifold heresies contained in them."

This I thought good to annex further in our story, after the examination of William Thorpe, and the martyrdom of William Sautre, and of John Badby, thus described, as ye have heard; which was about the year 1409.

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