Foxe's Book of Martyrs
Containing a Further Account of the Murdering of God's Saints, With the Processes and Names of Such Good Martyrs as in this Time of Queen Mary Where Put to Death.
Life and Martyrdom of John Rogers and Laurence Saunders.
On the 4th of February, 1555, suffered the constant martyr of God, master John Rogers, concerning whose life, examinations, and sufferings, the following particulars are set forth.
John Rogers, vicar of St. Sepulchre, and reader at St. Paul's received his education in the university of Cambridge, and at length was chosen chaplain to the English factory at Antwerp. There he became acquainted with Mr. Tindall, whom he assisted in his translation of the New Testament, and with Miles Coverdale, who, with several other protestants, had been driven from England on account of the five articles, in the latter end of the reign of Henry VIII. By conversing with these undaunted and pious servants of God, Mr. Rogers became learned in the scriptures, and finding, according to these sacred oracles, that matrimony was honourable to all, he entered into that state, and went with his wife to Wittenburg, in Saxony, where, through indefatigable study and application, he in a short time attained such a knowledge of the Dutch language as to be capable of taking charge of a christian congregation in that part of Europe. After abandoning his popish superstitions, this aged minister served his cure faithfully and diligently for many years, until it pleased God to dispel the mists of papal darkness from his native country and restore the glorious light of the pure gospel of Christ, by the introduction of his chosen servant Edward VI. to the English throne.
Mr. Rogers then complied with a request to leave his living in Saxony, and come into England to preach the gospel, without any previous condition, appointment, or establishment whatever: and having laboured in the vineyard of his Master for a time with great success, Dr. Ridley, then bishop of London, gave him a prebend in his cathedral church of St. Paul's: he was afterwards chosen by the dean and chapter one of the divinity-lecturers in that church. There he continued till queen Mary, soon after her accession, banished the true religion, and restored the superstition and idolatry of the church of Rome, with all the horrid cruelties of blood-thirsty Antichrist.
When Mary was in the Tower of London, imbibing Gardiner's pernicious counsels, Mr. Rogers preached at Paul's Cross, confirming those doctrines which he and others had taught in king Edward's days, and exhorting the people, with peculiar energy, to continue stedfast in the same, and to beware of the false tenets that were about to be introduced. For this sermon the preacher was summoned before the council, then filled with popish and bloody bishops; before whom he pleaded his own cause, in so pious and bold, yet prudent a manner, as to obviate their displeasure for that time, and was accordingly dismissed. But after Mary's proclamation to prohibit the doctrines of the reformed religion, Mr. Rogers, for a contempt of the same, was again summoned before a council of bishops, who, after having debated upon the nature of his offence, ordered him to keep close prisoner in his own house. There he remained a considerable time, till at the instigation of the sanguinary Bonner, bishop of London, he was removed to Newgate, and placed among common felons. What passed between him and the adversaries of Christ, during the time of his imprisonment, is not certainly known; but his examinations he left in his own hand-writing; the principal parts of which are here given.
The examination and answer of John Rogers, made to the lord chancellor Gardiner, and to the rest of the council, Jan. 22nd, 1555:--
First, the lord chancellor said unto me thus: "Sir, you have heard the state of the realm in which it standeth now."
Rogers. No, my lord, I have been kept in close prison; and except there have been some general thing said at the table, when I was at dinner or supper, I heard nothing; and there have I heard nothing whereupon any special thing might be grounded.
Then said the lord chancellor mockingly, "General things, general things! Ye have heard of my lord cardinal's coming, and that the parliament hath received his blessing, not one resisting it, but one man which did speak against it. Such an unity, and such a miracle, hath not been seen. And all they, of which there are eight score in one house, have with one assent received pardon of their offences, for the schism that we have had in England, in refusing the holy father of Rome to be head of the catholic church. How say you? are you content to unite yourself to the faith of the catholic church with us, in the state in which it is now in England? will you do that?"
Rog. The catholic church I never did nor will dissent from.
Gar. Nay, but I speak of the state of the catholic church, in that wise in which we stand now in England, having received the pope to be supreme head.
Rog. I know no other head but Christ of his catholic church, neither will I acknowledge the bishop of Rome to have any more authority than any other bishop hath by the word of God, and by the doctrines of the old and pure catholic church, four hundred years after Christ.
Gar. Why didst thou then acknowledge king Henry VIII. to be supreme head of the church, if Christ be the only head?
Rog. I never granted him to have any supremacy in spiritual things, as are the forgiveness of sins, giving to the Holy Ghost, authority to be a judge above the word of God.
Gar. Yea, if thou hadst said so in his days, thou hadst not been alive now. What sayest thou? make us a direct answer whether thou wilt be one of this catholic church or not, with us in that state in which we are now?
Rog. My lord, without fail I cannot believe, that ye yourselves think in your hearts that he is supreme head in forgiving of sins, seeing you and all the bishops of the realm have now twenty years long preached, and some of you also written to the contrary, and the parliament hath so long ago condescended unto it.
Gar. Tush! that parliament was with great cruelty constrained to abolish and put way the supremacy from the bishop of Rome.
Rog. With cruelty? why then I perceive that you take a wrong way with cruelty to persuade men's consciences, For it should appear by your doings now, that the cruelty then used hath not persuaded your consciences. How would you then have our consciences persuaded with cruelty?
Gar. I talk to thee of no cruelty, but that they were so often and so cruelly called upon in that parliament, to let the act go forward; yea, and even with force driven thereunto, whereas in this parliament it was so uniformly received.
Rog. I will first see it proved by the Scripture. Let me have pen, ink, and books, etc., and I shall take upon me more plainly to set out the matter, so that the contrary shall be proved to be true; and let any man that will, confer with me by writing.
Gar. Nay, that shall not be permitted thee. Here are two things, mercy and justice: if thou refuse the queen's mercy now, then shalt thou have justice ministered unto thee.
Rog. I never offended, nor was disobedient unto her grace, and yet I will not refuse her mercy. But if this shall be denied me to confer by writing and to try out the truth, then it is not well, but too far out of the way.
Gar. If thou wilt not receive the bishop of Rome to be supreme head of the catholic church, then thou shalt never have her mercy, thou mayest be sure. If thou wilt enter into one church with us, tell us that; or else thou shalt never have so much proffered thee again as thou hast now.
Rog. I will find it first in the scripture, and see it tried hereby, before I receive him to be supreme head. I find not the bishop of Rome in the creed. For the word catholic there signifieth not the Romish church: it signifieth the consent of all true teaching churches of all times and all ages. But how should the bishop of Rome's church be one of them, which teacheth so many doctrines that are plainly and directly against the word of God? Can that bishop be the true head of the catholic church, that doth so? That is not possible.
Gar. Shew me one of them-one! let me hear one.
Rog. The bishop of Rome, and his church, say, read, and sing, all that they do in their congregations, in Latin, which is directly and plainly against 1 Cor. xiv. To speak with tongues is to speak with a strange tongue, as Latin or Greek, etc.; and so to speak, is not to speak unto men, but to God. But ye speak in Latin, which is a strange tongue; wherefore ye speak not unto men, but unto yourselves and God only.
I was willing to have declared how and after what sort these two texts do agree; as, to wit, "to speak not to man, but unto God," and "to speak into the wind;" and so to have gone forward with the proof of my matter begun, but here arose a noise and a confusion. And here also I would have declared how they ought to proceed in these days, and so have come again to my purpose, but it was impossible; for one asked one thing, another said another; so that I was fain to hold my peace. And even when I would take hold on my proof, the lord chancellor bade to prison with me again. Then sir Richard Southwell said to me, "Thou wilt not burn in this gear when it cometh to the purpose, I know well that." To whom I replied, "Sir, I cannot tell, but I trust in my Lord God, yes;" lifting up mine eyes unto heaven.
Then my lord of Ely told me much of the queen's pleasure and meaning, saying that she took them that would not receive the bishop of Rome's supremacy to be unworthy to have her mercy, etc. I said I would not refuse her mercy, and yet I never offended her in all my life: and that I besought her grace, and all their honours, to be good to me, reserving my conscience. "A married priest, and have not offended the law!" cried they. I said I had not broken the queen's law, nor yet any point of the law of the realm therein; for I married where it was lawful. I married in Dutchland. And if you had not here in England made an open law that priests might have had wives, I would never have come home again; for I brought a wife and eight children with me: which ye might be sure I would not have done if the laws of the realm had not permitted it before. You say to me that there was never a catholic man or country who ever yet granted that a priest might have a wife. But I say that the catholic church never denied marriage to priests, nor yet to any other man." On giving this answer, Rogers was about to leave the chamber, the sergeant holding him by the arm ready to conduct him back to confinement. At his departure, the bishop of Worcester, who had before interposed with some trifling questions, taunted him with ignorance of what and where the true catholic church was-a taunt which might with much more justice have been addressed to him and his coadjutors in this persecuting course.
A second examination of Mr. Rogers soon after took place, most of which is here given in his own words. "Being asked again by the lord chancellor what I thought concerning the blessed sacrament: whether I believed it to be the very body and blood of our Saviour Christ, that was born of the Virgin Mary, and hanged on the cross, really and substantially? I answered, 'I have often told you that it was a matter in which I was no meddler, and therefore suspected of my brethren to be of a contrary opinion. Notwithstanding, even as the most part of your doctrine in other points is false, and the defence thereof only by force and cruelty; so in this matter I think it to be as false as the rest. For I cannot understand the words really and substantially, to signify otherwise than corporeally: but corporeally Christ is only in heaven, and so cannot Christ be so also in your sacrament. My lord you have dealt with me most cruelly, for you have put me in prison without law, and kept me there now almost a year and a half: for I was almost half a year in my house, where I was obedient to you, God knoweth, and spoke with no man. And now have I been a full year in Newgate, at great costs and charges, having a wife and ten children to provide for, and have not received a penny from my livings which was against the law.' To this Gardiner answered that Dr. Rdiley, who had given them me, was a usurper, and therefore I was the unjust possessor of them. I then asked, 'Was the king then an usurper, who gave Dr. Rdiley the bishopic?' To which the chancellor replied--Yes! Then he began to set out the wrongs that king Edward had done to the bishop of London, and to himself also. 'But yet do I mis-use my terms'--he confessed--' to call the king usurper.' "I asked him wherefore he put me in prison. He said, because I preached against the queen. I answered that it was not true; and I would be bound to prove it, and to stand to the trial of the law, that no man should be able to disprove me, and thereupon would set my life. I preached, I confessed, a sermon at the Cross, after the queen came to the Tower; but there was nothing said against the queen. He then charged me with having read lectures after, against the commandment of the council. To this I answered that I never did so, and said, let that be proved, and let me die for it.
"I might and would have added, if I had been suffered to speak, that it had been time enough to take away men's livings, and then to have imprisoned them after that they had offended the laws, for they are good citizens that break not laws, and worthy of praise, and not of punishment. But their purpose was to keep men in prison, until they may catch them in their laws, and so kill them. I might have declared that I most humbly desired to be set at liberty, sending my wife with a supplication, while I was yet in my house.
"I wrote two petitions to him out of Newgate, and sent my wife many times to him. Master Gosnold also, who is now departed in the Lord, laboured for me, and so did divers others take pains in the matter. These things declare my lord chancellor's antichristian charity, which is, that he hath and doth seek my blood, and the destruction of my wife and ten children.
"This is a short sum of the words which were spoken on the 28th of January, in the afternoon, after that master Hooper had been the first, and master Cardmaker the second, in examination before me. The Lord grant us grace to stand together, fighting lawfully in his cause, till we be smitten down together, if the Lord's will be so to permit it. Then the clock being, as I guessed, about four, the lord chancellor said that he and the church must yet use charity with me, and gave me respite till tomorrow, to see whether I would return to the catholic church again, and repent, and they would receive me to mercy. I said that I was never out of the true catholic church, nor would be: but into his church would I, by the God's grace, never come. 'Well,' quoth he, 'is our church false and antichristian?' I answered, 'Yea.' 'And what is the doctrine of the sacrament?' 'False,' quoth I; and cast my hands abroad. 'Come again to-morrow,' said the chancellor, 'between nine and ten.' 'I am ready to come again whensoever you call,' quoth I. And thus was I brought up by the sheriffs to the Compter in Southwark, master Hooper going before me, and a great multitude of people being present, so that we had much to do to go in the streets."
On the morrow the third examination went on. Mr. Rogers writes--"The next day, January 29th, we were sent for in the morning about nine o'clock, and by the sheriff's brought from the compter in Southwark to St. Mary Overy's. When Mr. Hooper was condemned, as I understood afterwards, then sent they for me. My lord chancellor Gardiner said--'Rogers, here thou wast yesterday, and we gave thee liberty to remember thyself last night, whether thou wouldst come into the holy catholic church of Christ again, or not. Tell us what thou hast determined, whether thou wilt be repentant and sorry, and wilt thou return again and take mercy?" 'My lord,' quoth I, 'I have remembered myself right well, what you yesterday said to me, and desire you to give me leave to declare my mind, what I have to say thereunto; and that done I shall answer to your demanded question. When I yesterday desired that I might be suffered by the scripture and authority of the first, best, and purest church, to defend my doctrine by writing, all the doctrine that ever I had preached, you answered, that it might not, and ought not to be granted me, for I was a private person; and that the parliament was above the authority of all private persons, and therefore the sentence thereof might not be found faulty and useless by me, being but a private person. Yet, my lord, I am able to show examples, that one man hath come into a general council, and after the whole had determined and agreed upon an act or article, some one man coming in afterwards, hath by the word of God proved so clearly that the council erred in decreeing the said article, that he caused the whole council to change and alter their act or article before determined. And of these examples I am able to shew two. I can also shew the authority of St. Augustine; that when he disputed with a heretic, he would neither himself, nor yet have the heretic to lean on the determination of two former councils, of which the one was made for him, and the other for the heretic that disputed against him; but he said that he would have the scriptures to be their judge, which were common for them both, and not peculiar to either of them.'
"I could also shew the authority of a learned lawyer. Panormitanus, who saith, That unto a simple layman that bringeth the word of God with him, there ought more credit to be given, than to a whole council gathered together. By these things will I prove that I ought not to be denied to speak my mind, and to be heard against a whole parliament, bringing the word of God for me, and the authority of the whole church 400 years after Christ, albeit that every man in the parliament had willingly and without respect of fear and favour agreed thereunto, which thing I doubt not a little of; especially seeing the like had been permitted in the old church, even in general councils; yea, and that in one of the chiefest councils, that ever was, unto which neither any acts of this parliament, not yet any of the late general councils of the bishops of Rome ought to be compared. For if Henry VIII. were alive, and should call a parliament, and begin to determine a thing, then would ye all say Amen: yea, and it please your grace, it is meet that it be so enacted.
'Here my lord chancellor would suffer me to speak no more; but bade me sit down, mockingly, saying, That I was sent for to be instructed of them, and yet I would take upon me to be their instructor. To this I said--'My lord, I stand and sit not: shall I not be suffered to speak for my life?' 'Shall we suffer thee to tell a tale, and prate?' said he. And with that he stood up, and began to face me, after his old arrogant proud fashion, for he perceived that I was in a way to have touched him somewhat, which he thought to hinder by dashing me out of my tale, and so he did: but he had much the like communication with me as he had the day before, taunt upon taunt, and check upon check. For in that case, being God's cause, I told him he should not make me afraid to speak.
"The lord chancellor on this exclaimed, 'See what a spirit this fellow hath, finding fault at mine accustomed earnestness, and hearty manner of speaking!' On which I said-I have a true spirit, agreeing to, and obeying the word of God; and would further have said, that I was never the worse, but the better, to be earnest in a just and true cause, and in my master Christ's matters: but I could not be heard. At length he proceeded towards his excommunication and condemnation, after that I had told him, that his church of Rome was the church of Antichrist, meaning the false doctrine and tyrannical laws, with the maintenance thereof by cruel persecutions used by the bishops of the said church. To be brief, he read my condemnation before me, particularly mentioning therein but two articles: first, that I affirmed the Roman catholic church to be the church of Antichrist: and then that I denied the reality of their sacrament. He caused me to be degraded and condemned, and put into the hands of the laity, and then he gave me over into the sheriff's hands, which were much better than his."
"After this sentence was read, bishop Gardiner sent Mr. Hooper and me to the Clink, there to remain till night; when it was dark, they carried us, Mr. Hooper going before with one sheriff, and I coming after with the other, with bills and weapons out of the Clink, and led us through the bishop's house, and St. Mary Overy's church yard, and so into Southwark, hence over the bridge in procession to Newgate, through the city. When the bishop had read the condemnation, I petitioned to see and speak to my wife, who was a stranger, and had ten children; but he said she was not my wife. I declared she was, for we had been married eighteen years. He still denied it, said I maintained open whoredom, and that I should not see her!"
While this excellent writer as well as patient sufferer remained in prison, he wrote his sentiments in a bold and manly strain, upon the evils and abuses brought into the country, and held out to its rulers, the vengeance that had fallen, in different ages, upon the enemies of truth. The following is a sample--"I am an Englishman born, and, God knoweth, do naturally wish well to my country. And I have often proved that the things, which I have much feared should come to pass have indeed followed. I pray God I may fail of my guessing in this behalf. And as touching your rejoicing, as though God had set you aloft to punish us by miracle, and to minister justice, if we will not receive your holy father's mercy, and thereby do declare your church to be true, and ours false; to that I answer thus: God's works are wonderful, and are not to be comprehended and perceived by man's wisdom nor by the wit of the most wise and prudent.-Our enemies sometimes cry out that we liken ourselves to prophets and apostles; but I answer the charge, that we make not ourselves like unto them, in the singular virtues and gifts of God given unto them; as of doing miracles, and of many other things. The similitude and likeness of them and us consisteth not in all things, but only in this, that is, that we be like them in doctrine, and in the suffering of persecution and infamy for the same.
"The apostles were beaten for their boldness, and they rejoiced that they suffered for Christ's cause. Ye have also provided rods for us, and bloody whips: yet when ye have done that which God's hand and counsel hath determined that ye shall do, be it life or death, I trust that God will so assist us by his Holy Spirit and grace, that we shall patiently suffer it, and praise God for it: and whatsoever become of me and others, which now suffer for speaking and professing the truth, yet be ye sure, that God's word will prevail and have the upper hand, when your bloody laws and wicked decrees, for want of sure foundation, shall fall in the dust.--Of what force, I pray you, may a man think these parliaments to be, which scantily can stand a year in strength? or what credit is to be given to these law-makers, who are not ashamed to establish contrary laws, and to condemn that for evil which before they affirmed and decreed to be good? Truly ye are so ready, contrary to all right, to change and turn for the pleasure of man, that at length I fear God will use you like changelings, and both turn you forth of his kingdom, and out of your own country."
After that John Rogers had been long and straitly imprisoned, lodged in Newgate amongst thieves, often examined, very uncharitably treated, and at length unjustly and most cruelly condemned by Gardiner, he was, on Feb. 4th, warned suddenly by the keeper's wife of Newgate to prepare himself for the fire; who being found asleep was with great difficulty awoke. At length being roused, he was led down first to Bonner to be degraded; which done, he craved of him one petition-that he might speak a few words with his wife before his burning. But that was denied him. "Then," said he, "you declare your charity, what it is."
Now when the time came that he should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the sheriff came to him, and asked if he would revoke his abominable doctrines. To whom Mr. Rogers said, "That which I have preached I will seal with my blood!" "Then," said the sheriff, "thou art a heretic." "That shall be known," said Rogers, "at the day of judgment." "Well," quoth the sheriff, "I will never pray for thee." "But I will pray for you," replied Rogers; and so was brought the same day, which was Monday the 4th of February, towards Smithfield, saying the psalm "Miserere" by the way, all the people rejoicing at his constancy, with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And there, in the presence of Rochester, comptroller of the queen's household, sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and many people, the fire was put unto him; and when it had taken hold both upon his legs and shoulders, he, as one feeling no smart, washed his hands in the flame, as though it had been in cold water. After lifting up his hands unto heaven, not removing the same until such time as the devouring fire had consumed them, most mildly this happy martyr yielded up his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father. A little before his burning, his pardon was brought if he would have recanted; but he utterly refused it. He was the first of all the blessed martyrs that suffered in the reign of queen Mary; those which had previously suffered having suffered as traitors. His wife and children met him by the way as he went towards Smithfield. This sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood could nothing move him; but he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in defence of the gospel of Christ.
Next to this faithful and holy man followed the Rev. Laurence Saunders, martyred at Coventry the next month. He was a man of good parentage. He was placed early at Eton school, whence, at a proper age, he was chosen to go to the King's college, in Cambridge, where he continued a scholar three years, and profited in knowledge and learning very much for that time; shortly after he quitted the university, and went to his parents, upon whose advice he consented to become a merchant, for that his mother, who was a gentlewoman of good estimation, being left a widow, and having a good portion for him among his other brethren, thought to set him in the way of wealth; and so he, coming up to London, was bound apprentice to Sir William Chester, who afterwards chanced to be sheriff of London the same year that Saunders was burnt at Coventry.
It happened that the master, being a good man, and hearing Saunders in his secret prayers inwardly to mourn by himself, called him unto him, to know the cause of his solitariness and lamentations: when, learning him not to fancy that kind of life, and perceiving also his whole purpose to be bent to the study of books, and spiritual contemplation, like a good and sensible man, wrote to his friends, and giving him his indentures, set him free. Thus Mr. Saunders being ravished with the love of learning, and especially with the reading of God's word, tarried not long in the traffic of merchandize, but shortly returned to Cambridge again to his study, where he began to add to the knowledge of the Latin, the study of the Greek tongue, in which he profited very much in a little time; presently after, he joined the study of the Hebrew. Then he gave himself wholly to the study of the holy scriptures, to furnish himself for the office of a preacher.
In the beginning of king Edward's reign, when true religion was introduced, he began to preach, and was so liked by them who then had authority, that they had appointed him to read a divinity lecture in the college of Fotheringhay, where, by doctrine and life, he edified the pious, drew many ignorant to the true knowledge of God, and stopped the mouths of adversaries. He married about that time, and in the connubial state led a life unblameable before all men. The college of Fotheringhay being dissolved, he was appointed a reader in the minster at Litchfield: where he so behaved himself in teaching and living, that his very adversaries bore testimony as well of his learning as of his piety. After a certain space, he departed from Litchfield to a benefice in Leicestershire, called Churchlangton, where he resided and taught diligently, and kept a liberal house. From thence he was orderly called to take a benefice in the city of London, called Allhallows, in Breadstreet. Then he was inclined to resign his cure in the country; and after he had taken possession of his benefice in London, he departed into the country, clearly to discharge himself thereof.
On Sunday, October 15th, in the forenoon, he delivered a sermon in his parish, treating on that place which St. Paul writeth to the Corinthians: "I have coupled you to one man, that ye should make yourselves chaste virgins unto Christ. But I fear lest it come to pass, that as the serpent beguiled Eve, even so your wits should be corrupt from the singleness which ye had towards Christ." He recited the sum of that true christian doctrine, through which they were coupled to Christ, to receive of him free justification through faith in his blood. The papistical doctrine he compared to the serpent's deceiving: and lest they should be deceived by it, he made a contrast between the voice of God and the voice of the popish serpent; descending to more particular declaration therefore, as it were to let them plainly see the difference that is between the order of the church service, set forth by king Edward in the English tongue, and comparing it with the popish service then used in the Latin tongue.
The first, he said, was good, because it was according to the word of God, and the order of the primitive church. The other, he said, was evil, and though in that evil be intermingled some good Latin words, yet was it but as a little honey or milk mingled with a great deal of poison to make them drink up all. In the afternoon he was ready in his church to have given another exhortation to his people. But the bishop of London interrupted him, by sending an officer for him. This officer charged him upon pain of contumacy forthwith to come to the bishop. And thus was Saunders brought before Bonner, who laid to his charge treason for breaking the queen's proclamation, and heresy and sedition for his sermon.
After much talk, the bishop willed him to write what he believed of transubstantiation. Saunders did so; and this writing the bishop kept for his purpose, as shall appear hereafter. Bonner sent him to the lord chancellor, who, being unable to resist his arguments, cried, "Carry away this frenzy-fool to prison." Here Saunders continued a whole year and three months; in which space he sent divers letters to divers men: as one to Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer; another to his wife, and also to others. But of his cause and estate thou shalt now see what Laurence Saunders himself did write to the bishop of Winchester, as an answer to certain things wherewith he had before charged him:--
"Touching the cause of my imprisonment, I doubt whether I have broken any law or proclamation. In my doctrine I did not, forasmuch as at that time it was permitted by the proclamation to use, according to our consciences, such service as was then established. My doctrine was then agreeable unto my conscience and the same service then used. The act which I did (meaning his public teaching of God's word in his own parish, called Allhallows in Bread-street, in the city of London) was such as being indifferently weighed, sounded to no breaking of the proclamation, or at least no wilful breaking of it, forasmuch as I caused no bell to be rung, neither occupied I any place in the pulpit, after the order of sermons or lectures. But be it that I did break the proclamation, this long time of continuance in prison may be thought to be more than a sufficient punishment for such a fault.
"Touching the charging of me with my religion, I say with St. Paul: 'I confess, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my forefathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets, and have hope towards God touching the resurrection of the dead. And herein study I to have always a clear conscience towards God and towards men.' So that God I call to witness, I have a conscience. And this my conscience is not grounded upon vain fantasy, but upon the infallible verity of God's word, with the witnessing of his chosen church agreeable unto the same.
"It is an easy thing for them which take Christ for their true pastor, and be the very sheep of his pasture, to discern the voice of their true shepherd, from the voice of wolves, hirelings, and strangers: forasmuch as Christ saith, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.' Yea, and thereby they shall have the gift to know the right voice of the true shepherd, and so to follow him, and to avoid the contrary, as he also saith, 'The sheep follow the shepherd, for they know his voice: a stranger they will not follow, but will fly from him, for they know not the voice of a stranger.' Such inward inspiration doth the Holy Ghost put into the children of God, being indeed taught of God, but otherwise unable to understand the true way of their salvation. And although the wolf, as Christ saith, cometh in sheep's clothing, yet by their fruits you shall know them. That the Romish religion is ravening and wolfish, is apparent in three principal points. It robbeth God of his due and only honour. It taketh away the true comfort of conscience, in obscuring, or rather burying, of Christ and his office of salvation. It spoileth God of his true worship and service in spirit and truth, appointed in his commandments, and driveth men unto that inconvenience, against which Christ with the prophet Isaiah doth speak sharply:--'this people honoureth me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they worship me in vain, teaching the doctrines and precepts of men.' And in another place--'Ye cast aside the commandments of God, to maintain your own traditions.'"
As a prisoner in Christ's cause, he resigned himself in such sort as to forbade his wife to sue for his delivery; and when others of his friends had by suit almost obtained it, he discouraged them, so they did not follow their suit, as may appear by the following letter to his wife:--
"Grace, mercy, and peace in Christ our Lord, Entirely beloved wife, even as unto my own soul and body, so do I daily in my hearty prayer wish unto you: for I do daily, twice at least, in this sort remember you. And I do not doubt, dear wife, but that both I and you, as we are written in the book of life, so we shall together enjoy the same everlastingly, through the grace and mercy of God our dear Father, in his Son our Lord Jesus Christ. And for this present life, let us wholly appoint ourselves to the will of our good God to glorify him either by life or by death; and even that same merciful Lord make us worthy to honour him either way as pleaseth him, Amen. I am cheerful, I thank my God and my Christ, in whom and through whom I shall be able to fight a good fight, and finish a good course,
and then receive the crown, which is laid up in store for me, and all the true
soldiers of Christ. Wherefore, wife, let us, in the name of our God, fight
lustily to overcome the flesh, the devil, and the world. What our harness and
weapons be in this kind of fight, look in the sixth chapter unto the Ephesians,
and pray, pray, pray. I would that you make no suit for me in any wise. Thank
you know whom, for her most sweet and comfortable putting me in remembrance of
my journey whither I am passing. God send us all good speed, and a joyful
meeting. I have too few such friends to further me in that journey, which is
indeed the greatest friendship. The blessing of God be with you all, Amen.
The constancy of this faithful servant of Christ, even unto the end, is sufficiently manifested and declared by his valiant contest with those two powerful enemies, antichrist and death: to neither of these did he give place, and finally triumphed over both. When he was in confinement, an order was sent to the keeper that no person should speak with him; but his wife coming to the prison gate with her young child in her arms, the keeper, though he durst not, on account of his charge, suffer her to come into the prison, yet he took the infant from her, and brought him to his father. Mr. Saunders, seeing the child, said, that he rejoiced, more to have such a boy, than he should if two thousand pounds were given him. And to the standers-by, who praised the goodliness of the child, he said, "What man, fearing God, would not lose his life, rather, than by prolonging it, he should adjudge this boy to be a bastard? Yea, if there were no other cause, for which a man of my estate should lose his life, yet who would not give it, to vouch this child to be legitimate, and our marriage to be lawful and holy?"
I do, good reader, recite this saying, not only to let thee see what be thought of priests' marriage; but chiefly to let all married couples learn to bear in their bosom true affections, unfeignedly mortified to do the natural works and offices of married couples, so long as with their doing they may keep Christ with a free confessing faith in a conscience unsoiled.
And now to come to the examination of this good man: after that the bishops had kept him one whole year and a quarter in prison, at length they called him, as they did the rest of his fellows, openly to be examined. Of which first examination the effect and purport thus followeth:
Praised be our gracious God who preserveth his from evil, and doth give them grace to avoid all such offences as might hinder his honour, or hurt his church.-Being convented before the queen's most honourable council, sundry bishops being present, the lord chancellor began thus to speak:
Lord Chan. It is not unknown, that you have been a prisoner for such abominable heresies and false doctrine as have been sown by you; and now it is thought good that mercy be shewed to such as seek for it. Wherefore if now you will shew yourself conformable, and come home again, mercy is ready. We must say that we have fallen in manner all: but now we are risen again, and returned to the catholic church; you must rise with us, and come home unto it. Give us forthwith a direct answer.
Saun. My lord, and my lords all, may it please your honours to give me leave to answer with deliberation.
Chan. Leave off your painting and pride of speech: for such is the fashion of you all, to please yourselves in your glorious words. Answer yes, or no.
Saun. My lord, it is no time for me now to paint. And as for pride, there is no great cause why it should be in me; my learning I confess to be but small; and as for riches or worldly wealth, I have none at all. Notwithstanding, it standeth me in hand to answer your demand circumspectly, considering that one of these two extreme perils is likely to fall upon me, namely, the losing of a good conscience or the losing of this my body and life. And I tell you truth, I love both life and liberty, if I could enjoy them without the hurt of my conscience.
Chan. Conscience! you have none at all, but pride and arrogancy, dividing yourself by singularity from the church.
Saun. The Lord is the knower of all men's consciences. And where your lordship layeth to my charge this dividing myself from the church, I do assure you that I live in the faith wherein I have been brought up since I was fourteen years of age; being taught that the power of the bishop of Rome is but usurped, with many other abuses springing thereof. Yes, this I have received even at your hands, as a thing agreed upon by the catholic church and public authority.
Chan. But have you received, by consent and authority, all your heresies of the blessed sacrament of the altar?
Saun. My lord, it is less offence to cut off an arm, hand, or joint of man, than to cut off the head. For the man may live though he lose an arm, hand, or joint; but he cannot without his head. Now you all agreed to cut off the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, whom now you will have to be the head of the church again.
Bonner interposed with a single accusation, by which he hoped to render him at once self-confounded. Addressing the chancellor, he obsequiously said--"And if it please your lordship, I have this man's hand-writing against the blessed sacrament." Then turning scornfully to Saunders, he asked--"How are you able to answer that?"
Saun. What I have written, that I have written, and further I will not accuse myself. Nothing have you to burden me withal, for breaking of your laws since they were in force.
Chan. Well, you are obstinate, and refuse liberty.
Saun. My lord, I may not buy liberty at such a price; but I beseech your honours to be means to the queen's majesty for such a pardon for us, that we may live and keep our consciences unclogged, and we shall live as most obedient subjects. Otherwise, I must say for myself, that by God's grace I will abide the utmost extremity that man may do against me, rather than act against my conscience.
Chan. Ah, sirrah, you will live as you like. The Donatists did desire to live in singularity; but indeed they were not fit to live on earth: no more are you, and that you shall understand within these seven days: and therefore away with him.
Saun. Welcome be it, whatsoever the will of God shall be, either life or death. And I tell you truly, I have learned to die. But I exhort you to beware of shedding innocent blood. Truly it will cry. The Spirit of God rest upon you all. Amen.
This examination being ended, the officers led him out of the place, and stayed until the rest of his fellow-prisoners were likewise examined, that they might have them all together to prison. Mr. Saunders, standing among the officers, seeing there a great multitude of people, spoke freely, warning them all of that which by their falling from Christ to antichrist they deserved; and therefore exhorting them by repentance to rise again, and to embrace Christ with stronger faith, to confess him to the end, in the defiance of antichrist, sin, death, and the devil: so should they retain the Lord's favour and blessing. This faithful procedure did not, of course, produce either a diminution of his adversaries' cruelty or a delay of his mortal suffering. It rather augmented the one and accelerated the other. Almost immediately he was delivered over to the secular power, and was brought by the sheriffs of London to the compter, a prisoner in his own parish of Bread-street; whereat he rejoiced greatly, both because he found there a fellow-prisoner, Mr. Cardmaker, with whom he had much christian and comfortable discourse; and because out of prison, as before out of a pulpit, he might have an opportunity of preaching to his parishioners.
On the fourth day of February, Bonner came to the prison to degrade him: which when he had done, Mr. Saunders said to him, "I thank God I am none of your church." The day following in the morning, the sheriff of London delivered him to certain of the queen's guard, which were appointed to carry him to the city of Coventry, there to be burned. On his arrival there, a poor shoemaker, who used to serve him, came to him, and said, "O my good master, God strengthen and comfort you." "Good shoemaker," replied he, "I desire thee to pray for me, for I am the most unfit man for this high office that ever was appointed to it: but my gracious God and dear Father is able to make me strong enough." The same night he was put into the common gaol among other prisoners, where he slept little, but spent the night in prayer, and instructing others.
The next day, being the 8th of February, he was led to the place of execution in the park, without the city, clad in an old gown and shirt, bare-footed, and oftentimes falling on the ground for prayer. When he was come nigh to the place, the officer appointed to see the execution done, said to Mr. Saunders, that he was one of them who marred the queen's realm with false doctrine and heresy, wherefore he deserved death; but yet if he would revoke his heresies, the queen would pardon him; if not, yonder fire was prepared for him. To whom Mr. Saunders answered, "It is not I, nor my fellow-preachers of God's truth, that have hurt the queen's realm; but it is yourself, and such as you are, who have always resisted God's holy word; it is you who mar the queen's realm. I hold no heresies, but the doctrine of God, the blessed gospel of Christ: that hold I, that believe I, that have I taught, and that will I never revoke." With that his tormentor cried, "Away with him." And away from him went Mr. Saunders, with a cheerful courage, towards the fire. He fell to the ground once more and prayed: he rose up again and took the stake to which he should be chained in his arms, and kissed it, saying, "Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life:" and being fastened to the stake, and fire put to him, he sweetly slept inthe Lord. In his life he appeared often prophetic. He had often told his friends, that many would suffer, if ever Mary ascended the throne.
Before we take our final leave of him, one remarkable circumstance in reference to an earlier period of his course, merits attention. He was acquainted with one Dr. Pendleton, an earnest preacher in king Edwards reign. Meeting together in the country, they debated upon what they had best do in the dangerous time that Mary's accession had brought upon them. Saunders confessed that his spirit was ready, but he felt the flesh was at present too weak for much suffering. But Pendleton admonished him, and appeared all courage and forwardness to face every peril. They both came under the controul of circumstances to London, and there, when danger arose, Pendleton shrunk from the cross, and Saunders resolutely took it up! "Let him that thinketh to stand, take heed lest he fall."