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Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Account of a Public Disputation Which Was Appointed by the Queen's Special Command in a Convocation Held at St. Mary's Church in Oxford.

In April 1554, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, were conveyed as prisoners from the Tower to Windsor; and from thence to Oxford, to dispute with the divines and learned men of both the universities, Oxford and Cambridge, concerning the presence, substance, and sacrifice of the sacrament. The doctors and graduates appointed to dispute against them were of Oxford-Dr. Weston, prolocutor, Dr. Tresham, Dr. Cole, Dr. Oglethorpe, Dr. Pie, Mr. Harpsfield, and Mr. Fecknam. Of Cambridge, Dr. Young, vice-chancellor, Dr. Glyn, Dr. Seton, Dr. Watson, Dr. Sedgewick, and Dr. Atkinson. The questions of dispute were-Whether the natural body of Christ be really in the sacrament, after words spoken by the priest or not? Whether in the sacrament, after the words of consecration, any other substance do remain, than the substance of the body and blood of Christ? and whether in the mass there be a sacrifice propitiatory for the sins of the quick and the dead?

On the 13th of April the doctors of Cambridge arrived at Oxford, and lodged all at the Cross Inn, with one Wakecline, some time a servant to bishop Bonner. After the ceremonies of welcome, and after consultation concerning the delivery of their letters and instrument of grace, they all repaired to Lincoln college to Dr. Weston the prolocutor, and to Dr. Tresham the vice-chancellor, to whom they delivered their letters, declaring what they had done touching the articles and graces. Having concluded on a procession, sermon, and convocation, on the day following, and that the doctors of Cambridge should be incorporated with the university of Oxford, and the doctors of Oxford with those of the university of Cambridge, they returned to their inn. The same day, the three prisoners were separated, Dr. Ridley to the house of Mr. Irish, Latimer to another house; while Cranmer remained to Bocardo, a prison in Oxford.

The following day the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, with the other doctors of that university, again repairing to Lincoln college, found the prolocutor above in the chapel, with a company of the house singing mass for the dead, and tarried there until the end. Then having consulted together in the master's room, they all come to the university church of St. Mary's, where, after another consultation in a chapel, the vice-chancellor of Oxford caused the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, and the rest of the doctors of that university, to send for their scarlet robes brought from Cambridge. By this time, the regents in the congregation-house, had granted all the Cambridge doctors their graces, to be incorporate there; and so they went up and were immediately admitted, Dr. Oglethorpe presenting them, and the proctor reading the statute, and giving them their oaths.

They now all came into the choir to hold the convocation of the university: the mass of the Holy Ghost was solemnly sung before them by the choir-men of Christ's church. First, the cause of the convocation was opened in English by the vice-chancellor and prolocutor declaring that they were commissioned by the queen, and wherefore they were sent; and caused master Say, the register, openly to read the commission. That done, the vice-chancellor read the Cambridge letters openly, and then concluded that three notaries, one for the convocation, one for Cambridge, and one for Oxford, should testify of their doings. Then they ordered the notaries to provide parchment, that the whole assembly might subscribe to the articles, except those who had subscribed before in the convocation-house at London and Cambridge. And so the vice-chancellor began first; after him the rest of the Oxford men, as many as could in the mass time.

The mass being done, they went in procession to Christ's church; and there the choir sang a psalm, and after that a collect was read. They then departed to Lincoln college, where they dined with the mayor, one alderman, four beadles, and the Cambridge notary. After dinner they all went again to St. Mary's church; where, shortly after, all the commissioners arrived, and sat before the altar, to the number of thirty-three persons: Dr. Cranmer was then sent for, and shortly after arrived in custody. The archbishop paid his respects to them with much humility, standing with his staff in his hand, and though he had a stool offered him, refused to sit. The articles against him were read, and a copy of them delivered to him; after which he was given in charge to the mayor, who remanded him to prison.

Dr. Ridley was next brought in, who hearing the articles against him, immediately replied that they were all false; and said farther, that they sprang from a bitter and sour root. Then he was asked whether he would dispute or not? He answered, that as long as God gave him life, he should not only have his heart, but also his mouth and pen to defend his truth; but he required time and books. They said he could not have time, but must dispute on Thursday; and till then he should have books. He said it was unreasonable that he might not have his own books and time also. Then they gave him the articles, and desired him to write his opinion upon them that night; after which they commanded the mayor to take him whence he came.

Last of all came in Mr. Latimer, with a kerchief and two or three caps on his head, his spectacles hanging by a string at his breast, and a staff in his hand, and was set in a chair. After his denial of the articles, when he had Wednesday appointed for disputation, he alleged age, sickness, disuse, and lack of books, saying, that he was almost as meet to dispute as to be a captain of Calais: but he would declare his mind either by writing or word, and would stand to all they could lay upon him; complaining, moreover, that he was permitted to have neither pen nor ink, nor yet any book but the New Testament in his hand, which he had read over seven times deliberately, and yet could not find the mass in it, neither the marrow-bones nor sinews of the same. At this the commissioners were not a little offended; and Dr. Weston said that he would make him grant that it had both marrow-bones and sinews in the New Testament. To whom Latimer said again, "That you will never do, master Doctor." And so, forthwith, they put him to silence; so that whereas he was desirous to tell what he meant by those terms, he could not be suffered. The great press and throng of people were then dispersed, and the convocation adjourned. At nine o'clock on Sunday morning, Mr. Harpsfield preached at St. Mary's, where the doctors in their robes were placed in due order of precedency. After sermon, they all dined at Magdalen college, and supped at Lincoln college, with Dr. Weston; whither Cranmer sent his answer upon the articles in writing.

On Monday, Dr. Weston, with the residue of the visitors, censors, and opponents, repairing to the divinity school, each installed himself in his place. Cranmer was brought thither, and set in the answerer's place, with the mayor and aldermen by him; when the prolocutor, apparelled in a scarlet gown, after the custom of the university, began the disputation with this oration:--

"You are assembled hither, brethren, this day to confound the detestable heresy of the verity of the body of Christ in the sacrament." At these strange words several of the learned men burst into great laughter, as though, in the entrance of the disputation, he had betrayed himself and his religion, by terming the opinion of the verity of Christ's body in the sacrament a detestable heresy! The rest of his oration was intended to prove, that it was not lawful to call these questions into controversy; for such as doubted of the words of Christ might well be thought to doubt both of the truth and power of God. On this Dr. Cranmer, desiring leave, answered- "We are assembled to discuss and to lay before the world those doubtful points which ye think it unlawful to dispute. It is, indeed, no reason that we should dispute of that which is determined upon before the truth be tried. But if these questions be not called into controversy, surely my answer then is looked for in vain."

Then Chedsey, the first opponent, began: "Rev. Doctor, these three conclusions are put forth unto us at present to dispute upon-In the sacrament of the altar, is the natural body of Christ, and also his blood, present really under the forms of bread and wine, by virtue of God's word pronounced by the priest? Does there remain any of the former substance of bread and wine after the consecration, or any other substance but the substance of God and man? Is the lively sacrifice of the church in the mass propitiatory, as well for the quick as the dead? These are the arguments on which our present controversy rests. Now, to the end we might not doubt how you take the same, you have already given unto us your opinion thereof. I term it your opinion, in that it disagreeth from the catholic. Wherefore I thus argue: Your opinion differeth from Scripture: ergo, you are deceived."

Cranmer. I deny the antecedent.

Chedsey. Christ, when he instituted his last supper, spake to his disciples, "Take, eat: this is my body which shall be given for you." But his true body was given for us: ergo, his true body is in the sacrament.

Cranmer. His body is truly present to them that truly receive him; but spiritually. And so it is taken after a spiritual sort; for when he said, "This is my body," it is all one as if he had said, "This is the breaking of my body; this is the shedding of my blood. As oft as you shall do this, it shall put you in remembrance of the breaking of my body, and the shedding of my blood; that as truly as you receive this sacrament, so truly shall you receive the benefit promised by receiving the same worthily."

Chedsey. Your opinion differeth from the church, which saith, that the true body is in the sacrament: ergo, your opinion therein is false.

Cranmer. I say and agree with the church, that the body of Christ is in the sacrament effectually, because the passion of Christ is effectual.

Chedsey. Christ, when he spake these words, "This is my body," spake of the substance, but not of the effect.

Cranmer. I grant he spake of the substance, and not of the effect after a sort: and yet it is most true that the body of Christ is effectually in the sacrament. But I deny that he is there truly present in bread, or that under the bread is his organical body.

And because it should be too tedious, Cranmer said, to discourse of the whole, he delivered his written opinion to Dr. Weston, with answers to the three propositions, requiring that it might be read openly to the people; which the prolocutor promised, but did not. The copy of this writing here followeth:--

"In the assertions of the church and of religion, trifling and newfangled novelties of words are to be eschewed, whereof ariseth nothing but contention; and we must follow as much as we can the manner of speaking of the Scripture. In the first conclusion, if ye understand by this word 'really,' 're ipsa,' that is, in very deed and effectually; so Christ, by the grace and efficacy of his passion, is indeed and truly present to all true and holy members. But if ye understand by this word 'really,' 'corporaliter,' that is, corporeally; so that by the body of Christ is understood a natural body and organical; so, the first proposition doth vary not only from the usual speech and phrase of Scripture, but also is clean contrary to the holy word of God and Christian profession: when as both the Scripture doth testify by these words, and also the Catholic church hath professed from the beginning-Christ to have left the world, and to sit at the right hand of the Father till he come to judgment.

"And likewise I answer to the second question, that is, that it swerveth from the accustomed manner and speech of Scripture. The third conclusion, as it is intricate and wrapped in all doubtful and ambiguous words, and differing also much from the true speech of Scripture, so as the words thereof seem to import no open sense, is most contumelious against our only Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus, and a violating of his precious blood, which, upon the altar of the cross, is the only sacrifice and oblation for the sins of all mankind."

Chedsey. By this your interpretation which you have made upon the first conclusion, this I understand--the body of Christ to be in the sacrament only by the way of participation: insomuch as we, communicating thereof, do participate the grace of Christ; so that you mean hereby the effect thereof. But our conclusion standeth upon the substance, and not the efficacy only, which shall appear by the testimony both of Scriptures, and of all the fathers a thousand years after Christ. And first let us consider what is written in Matt. xxvi., Mark xiv., Luke xxii., and 1 Cor. xi. Matthew saith, "As they sat at supper, Jesus took bread," etc. In Mark there is the same sense, although not the same words, who also for one part of the sacrament speaketh more plainly, saying, "Jesus taking bread" etc. After the same sense also writeth Luke, "And when Jesus had taken bread," etc. "In the mouth of two or three witnesses," saith the Scripture, "standeth all truth." Here we have three witnesses together, that Christ said that to be his body, which was given for many; and that to be his blood, which should be shed for many; whereby is declared the substance, and not only the efficacy thereof. Ergo, it is not true that you say, there is not the substance of his body, but the efficacy alone thereof.

Cran. Thus you gather upon mine answer, as though I did mean of the efficacy, and not of the substance of the body; but I mean of them both, as well as of the efficacy as of the substance. And forsomuch as all things come not readily to memory, to a man that shall speak extempore, therefore, for the more ample and fuller answer in this matter, this writing here I do exhibit.

Hereupon Cranmer put forth a lengthened explication, which the prolocutor said should be read in that place hereafter, and requested them to fall to the arguments.

Ched. The Scriptures in many places do affirm, that Christ gave his natural body: Matt. xxvi., Mark xiv., Luke xxii. Ergo, I do conclude that the natural body is in the sacrament.

Cran. To your argument I answer-If you understand by the body natural, the organic body, that is, having such proportion and members as he had living here, then I answer negatively. Furthermore, as concerning the evangelists, this I say and grant, that Christ took bread, and called it his body.

Ched. The text of the Scripture maketh against you, for the circumstance thereto annexed doth teach us, not only there to be the body, but also teacheth us what manner of body it is, and saith, "The same body which shall be given." That thing is here contained, that is given for us But the substance of bread is not given for us. And therefore the substance of bread is not here contained.

Cran. I understand not yet what you mean by this word contained. If you mean really, then I deny you major.

Ched. The major is the text of Scripture. He that denieth the major, denieth the Scripture: for the Scripture saith, "This is my body which is given for you."

Cran. I grant, Christ said it was his body which should be given, but he said it was his body which is here contained; "but the body that shall be given for you." As though he should say, "This bread is the breaking of my body, and this cup is the shedding of my blood." What will ye say then? Is the bread the breaking of his body, and the cup the shedding of his blood really? If you say so, I deny it.

Ched. If you ask what is the thing therein contained; because his apostles should not doubt what body it was that should be given, he saith, "This is my body which shall be given for you, and my blood which shall be shed for many." Here is the same substance of the body, which the day after was given, and the same blood which was shed. And I urge the Scripture, which teacheth that it was no fantastical, no feigned, no spiritual body, nor body in faith, but the substance of the body. Cran. You must prove that it is contained; but Christ said not which is contained. He gave bread, and called it his body. I halt not in the words of the Scripture, but in your word, which is feigned and imagined by yourself.

The disputation went on, but only by repeating on both sides what had already been said more than once or twice. Mr. Chedsey having at last finished his argument, Dr. Oglethorpe, one of the arbitrators, said- "You still come in with one evasion or starting hole to flee to. He urgeth the Scriptures, saying, that Christ gave his very body. You say, that he gave his body in bread. What sort of body is meant? what is the body spoken of? the bread is the body."

Cran. I answer to the question--It is the same body which was born of the Virgin, was crucified, ascended; but tropically, and by a figure. And so I say, the bread is the body, as a figurative speech, speaking sacramentally, for it is a sacrament of his body.

Oglethorpe. It is not a likely thing that Christ hath less care for his spouse the church, than a wise householder hath for this family in making his will or testament. But no householder maketh his testament after that sort.

Cran. Yes; there are many that do so. For what matter is it, so it be understood and perceived? I say, Christ used figurative speech in no place more than in his sacraments, and specially in this of his supper.

Ogle. No man of purpose doth use tropes in his testament; for, if he do, he deceiveth them that he comprehendeth in his testament: therefore Christ useth none here. The good man of the house hath respect that his heirs, after his departure, may live in quiet and without wrangling. But they cannot be in quiet if he uses tropes. Therefore, I say, he useth no tropes.

Cran. I deny your minor, and insist that he may use them.

Weston, the prolocutor, then said- "Augustine, in his book entitled De unitate Ecclesia, ch. x., hath these words following:- 'What a thing is this, I pray you? When the last words of one lying upon his death-bed are heard, who is ready to go to his grave, no man saith, that he hath made a lie; and he is not accounted his heir who regardeth not those words. How shall we then escape God's wrath, if, either not believing or not regarding, we shall reject the last words both of the only Son of God, and also of our Lord and Saviour, both ascending into heaven, and beholding from thence, who despiseth, who observeth them not, and so shall come from thence to judge all men?'"

Thereupon followed a lengthened discussion between Cranmer, Weston, and Oglethorpe. After which Cranmer resumed: "And why should we doubt to call it the sacrament of the body of Christ, offered upon the cross, seeing both Christ and the ancient fathers do so call it? Chrysostom himself declareth--'O miracle! O the good will of God towards us, which sitteth above at the right hand of the Father, and is holden in men's hands at the time of the sacrifice, and is given to feed upon, to them that are desirous of him! And that is brought to pass by no subtlety or craft, but with the open and beholding eyes of all the standers-by.' Thus you hear Christ is seen here on earth every day, and is touched; which no man having any judgment will say or think to be spoken without trope or figure."

West. What miracle is it if it be not his body, and if he spake only of the sacrament, as though it were his body? But hear what Chrysostom farther saith-"I shew forth that thing on earth unto thee, which is worthy the greatest honour. For like as in the palace of kings, neither the walls, nor the sumptuous bed, but the body of the king sitting under the cloth of state, and royal seat of majesty, is of all things else the most excellent: so is in like manner the King's body in heaven, which is now set before us on earth. I show thee neither angels nor archangels, nor the heaven of heavens, but the very Lord and Master of all these things. Thou perceivest after what sort thou dost not only behold, but touchest; and not only touchest, but eatest that which on the earth is greatest and chiefest thing of all other; and when thou hast received the same, thou goest home: wherefore cleanse thy soul from all uncleanness." Upon this, I conclude that the body of Christ is showed us upon the earth.

Cran. What! upon the earth? No man seeth Christ upon the earth: he is seen here with the eyes of our mind only, with faith and spirit.

West. I pray you, what is it that seemeth worthy highest honour on earth? Is it the sacrament, or else the body of Christ?

Cran. Chrysostom speaketh of the sacrament; and the body of Christ is showed forth in the sacrament.

West. Ergo, then the sacrament is worthy greatest honour.

Cran. I deny the argument.

West. That thing is showed forth, and is now on the earth: "ostenditur et est," which is worthy highest honour. But only the body of Christ is worthy highest honour: ergo, the body of Christ is now on the earth.

Cran. I answer, the body of Christ to be on the earth, but so as in the sacrament, and as the Holy Ghost is in the water of baptism.

West. Chrysostom saith, "ostendo," "I show forth," which noteth a substance to be present.

Cran. That is to be understood sacramentally.

West. He saith, "ostendo in terra," "I show forth on earth," declaring also the place where.

Cran. That is to be understood figuratively. Your major and conclusion are all one.

Here Weston called upon Cranmer to answer to one part, bidding him repeat his words; which when he essayed to do, such was the uproar in the divinity school, that his mild voice could not be heard. And when he went about to explain to the people that the prolocutor did not correctly English the words of Chrysostom, using for ostenditur in terra, "he is showed forth on the earth," est in terra, "he is on the earth;" whereas Chrysostom hath not est, nor any such word implying being on the earth, but only of showing, as the grace of the Holy Ghost, in baptismo ostenditur, "is showed forth in baptism." And oftentimes as he did inculcate this word ostenditur, the prolocutor rudely interrupted him, and, substituting noise and insolence for argument, called him unlearned and impudent; at the same time, pointing at him scornfully, urged the people to silence him with hissing, clapping of hands, and other species of tumult, which this reverend man most patiently and meekly did abide, as one well inured to the suffering of such reproaches. And the prolocutor, not yet satisfied with this rude and unseemly demeanour, did urge and call upon him to answer the argument; and then he bade the notary to repeat his words.

From Chrysostom the disputants went to Tertullian, from whom Chedsey, who was better acquainted with the fathers than the prolocutor himself, quoted as follows, for the purpose of again raising on their testimony his favourite and absurd syllogism: "Tertullian, speaking of the resurrection of the body, saith, 'Let us consider as concerning the proper form of the Christian man, what great prerogative this vain and foul substance of ours hath with God. Although it were sufficient to it, that no soul could ever get salvation, unless it believe while it is in flesh; so much the flesh availeth to salvation: by the which flesh cometh, that whereas the soul is so linked unto God, it is the said flesh that causeth the soul to be linked: yet the flesh moreover is washed, that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed, that the soul may be defeated; the flesh is shadowed by the impositions of hands, that the soul may be illuminated with the Spirit; the flesh doth eat the body and blood of Christ, that the soul may be fed of God.' Whereupon I gather this argument--The flesh eateth the body of Christ; therefore the body of Christ is eaten with the mouth."

To this quotation Cranmer replied, with some interruption from Weston and Chedsey, thus--"Tertullian calleth that the flesh which is the sacrament. For although God works all things in us invisibly, beyond man's reach, yet they are so manifest, that they may be seen and perceived of every sense. Therefore he setteth forth baptism, unction, and last of all the supper of the Lord unto us, which he gave to signify his operation in us. The flesh liveth by the bread, but the soul is inwardly fed by Christ.-Read that which followeth, and you shall perceive that, by things external, an internal operation is understood. Inwardly we eat Christ's body, and outwardly we eat the sacrament. So one thing is done outwardly, another inwardly. Like, as in baptism, the external element, whereby the body is washed, is one; the internal thing, whereby the soul is cleansed, is another."

A long discussion then took place between Chedsey, Cranmer, Weston, and Tresham. Dr. Young, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, at length strove to change the direction of the dispute, by putting certain questions to Cranmer relative to the nature of Christ's body, the subordination of sense and reason to faith, and the manner in which the words of the Lord Jesus were to be understood for the just belief of his doctrine, and the just observance of his commands and institutions.

Young. This disputation is taken in hand that the truth might appear. I perceive that I must go another way to work than I had thought. It is a common saying, "Against them that deny principles, we must not dispute." Therefore that we may agree of the principles, I demand, whether there be any other body of Christ, than his instrumental body?

Cran. There is no natural body of Christ, but his organical body.

Young. I demand, whether sense and reason ought to give place to faith?

Cran. They ought.

Young. Whether Christ be true in all his works? And whether, at his supper, he minded to do that which he spake or no?

Cran. Yea, he is most true, and truth itself. In saying he spake, but in saying he made not, but made the sacrament to his disciples.

Young. A figurative speech is no working thing. But the speech of Christ is working: ergo, it is not figurative.

Cran. I said not, that the words of Christ do work, but Christ himself; and he worketh by a figurative speech.

West. If a figure work, it maketh of bread the body of Christ.

Cran. A figurative speech worketh not.

West. A figurative speech, by your own confession, worketh nothing. But the speech of Christ in the supper, as you grant, wrought somewhat: ergo, the speech of Christ in the supper was not figurative.

Cran. I answer, these are mere sophisms. The speech doth not work; but Christ, by the speech, doth work the sacrament. I look for Scriptures at your hands, for they are the foundation of disputations.-Ambrose speaketh of sacraments sacramentally. He calleth the sacraments by the names of the things; for he useth the signs for the thing signified: and therefore the bread is not called bread, but his body, for the excellency and dignity of the thing signified by it.-The body is nourished both with the sacrament, and with the body of Christ: with the sacrament to a temporal life; with the body of Christ to eternal life.

The discussion was carried on for some time between Cranmer, Young, Weston, Pie, Chedsey, and Harpsfield. Cranmer, in his answers, evinced the meekness of wisdom, and the ingenuousness and integrity of truth, whenever their clamour would allow him to reply, or he considered their sophistries and quibbles deserving refutation. Their disordered disputation, sometimes in Latin, sometimes in English, continued almost till two of the clock. Being at length finished, and the arguments written and delivered to the hands of master Say, the prisoner, Dr. Cranmer, was had away by the mayor, and the doctors dined together at the University college.