Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Life and Martyrdom of John Hooper, Bishop of Worchester and Gloucester.
John Hooper, student and graduate in the university of Oxford, having made great advances in the study of the sciences, was stirred with a fervent desire to the love and knowledge of the scriptures. Advancing more and more, by God's grace, in ripeness and spiritual understanding, and shewing withal some sparks of his spirit, being then about the beginning of the six articles, in the time of king Henry VIII. fell quickly into the displeasure and hatred of certain doctors in Oxford, who soon discovered their enmity to him, till at length, by the procurement of Dr. Smith, he was compelled to quit the university. Removing from thence, he was retained in the house of Sir Thomas Arundel, in the capacity of steward, till Sir Thomas, having intelligence of his opinions and religion, which he in no case did favour, and yet exceedingly favouring the person and character of the man, found the means to send him with a message to the bishop of Winchester, writing his letter privily to the bishop, by conference of learning to do some good unto him, but in any case requiring him to send home his servant to him again. The bishop received him courteously; but after long conference with him, perceiving that neither he could do that good which he thought to him, nor that he would take any good at his hand, according to Arundel's request, sent him home again, commending his learning and wit, but yet bearing in his breast a secret enmity against him.
Not long after this, as malice is always working mischief, intelligence was given to Mr. Hooper to provide for himself, for danger was arising against him; whereupon he left Sir Thomas Arundel's house, and borrowing a horse of a friend, whose life he had saved, took his journey to the sea side to go to France, sending back the horse again by one, who indeed did not deliver him to the owner. Mr. Hooper being at Paris, remained there not long, but in a short time returned into England again, and was retained by Mr. Sentlow, till he was again molested and sought for: when he was compelled under the pretence of being captain of a ship going to Ireland, to take to the seas, and so escaped through France to the higher parts of Germany; where, commencing acquaintance with learned men, he was by them friendly and lovingly entertained, both at Basil and at Zurich: at the latter place in particular by Mr. Bullinger. Here he also married, and applied very studiously to the study of the Hebrew tongue.
At length, when God saw it good to end the bloody persecution which arose from the six articles, and to give king Edward to reign over this realm, with some peace and rest unto the church, amongst many other English exiles who then repaired homeward, was Mr. Hooper, who thought it his duty to forward the cause of God in his native country. Coming to Mr. Bullinger, and other of his acquaintance in Zurich, to give them thanks for their singular kindness towards him, his kind host thus addressed him, "Mr. Hooper, although we are sorry to part with your company for your own cause, yet much greater cause have we to rejoice, both for your sake, and especially for the cause of Christ's true religion, that you shall now return out of long banishment to your native country, where you may not only enjoy your own private liberty, but also the cause and state of Christ's church by you may fare the better, as we doubt not but it will. Another cause why we rejoice with you and for you, is this; that you shall remove not only out of exile into liberty, but leave here a barren, sour, and unpleasant country, rude and savage, and shall go into a land flowing with milk and honey, replenished with all fertility. But with this our rejoicing, one fear and care we have, lest you being absent, and so far distant from us, or else coming to such abundance of wealth and felicity, in your new welfare and plenty of all things, and in your flourishing honours, where you shall come peradventure to be a bishop, and where you shall find so many new friends, you will forget us your old acquaintance and well-wishers. If however you shall forget and shake us off, yet this persuade yourself, that we will not forget our old friend. And if you will please not to forget us, then I pray you let us hear from you."
Mr. Hooper gave Mr. Bullinger and the rest hearty thanks, for their singular good-will and undeserved affection, appearing not only now, but at all times towards him; declaring, moreover, that as the principal cause of his removing to his country was the matter of religion; so touching the unpleasantness and barrenness of that country of theirs, there was no cause therein why he could not find in his heart to continue his life there, as soon as in any place in the world, and rather than his own native country, if there were nothing else in his conscience that moved him to change. And as to the forgetting his old friends, although the remembrance of a man's country naturally delights him, and he could not deny but God had blessed his country with many great advantages; yet neither the nature of country, nor pleasure of advantages, nor newness of friends, should ever induce him to the oblivion of such benefactors, to whom he was so entirely bound; and therefore they should be sure from time to time to hear from him But the last news of all I may not be able to write; "for there," said he, (taking Mr. Bullinger by the hand) "where I shall take most pains, there shall you hear of me to be burned to ashes: and that shall be news which I shall not be able to write unto you, but you shall hear of me from other hands."
Having thus taken his farewell of Mr. Bullinger, and his friends in Zurich, he repaired again into England, in the reign of Edward the Sixth; and coming to London, used continually to preach, most times twice, and at least once every day. In all his discourses, according to his accustomed manner, he corrected sin, and sharply inveighed against the iniquity of the world, and corrupt abuses of the church. Nor was his example less proper: his life was so pure and good, that no kind of slander could fasten any fault upon him. He was of strong body, his health whole and sound, his wit very poignant, his invincible patience able to sustain whatever adversity could inflict. He was constant of judgment, frugal of diet, spare of words, and still more so of time. In house-keeping very liberal, and sometimes more free than his living would extend unto.
After he had practised himself in this popular preaching, he was, at length, and that not without the great profit of many, called to preach before the king, and soon after made bishop of Gloucester by his majesty's commands. In that office he continued two years, and behaved himself so well, that his very enemies could find no fault in him, except in the way in which the foes of Daniel found fault with that holy prophet-"concerning the law of his God." After two years he received, in connection with Gloucester, the bishopric of the neighbouring city of Worcester.
But sinister and unlucky contention concerning the ordering and consecration of bishops, and of their apparel, with other such trifles, began to disturb the good beginning of this bishop. For notwithstanding that godly reformation of religion that arose in the church of England, besides other ceremonies more ambitious than profitable, or tending to edification, they used to wear such garments and apparel as the popish bishops were wont to do; first a chymere, and under that a white rochet; then a mathematical cap with four angles, indicative of dividing the world into four parts. These trifles tending more to superstition than otherwise, as he could never abide, so in no wise could he be persuaded to wear them. For this cause he made supplication to the king, most humbly desiring his highness, either to discharge him of the bishopric, or else to dispense with him for such ceremonial orders: which petition the king granted immediately, writing to the archbishop in his behalf. The king's letter was as follows--"Right reverend father, and right trusty and well beloved, we greet you will. Whereas we, by advice of our councils have called and chosen our right well beloved Mr. John Hooper, professor of divinity, to be our bishop of Gloucester, as well for his great knowledge, deep judgment, and long study in the scriptures; as also for his good discretion, ready utterance, and honest life; to the intent that all our loving subjects, which are in his said charge and elsewhere, might by his sound and true doctrine learn the better their duty towards God, their obedience towards us, and love towards their neighbour; from consecrating of whom we understand you to stay, because he would have you omit certain rites and ceremonies offensive to his conscience, whereby ye think ye should fall under the laws-we have thought good, by the advice aforesaid, to dispense and discharge you of all manner of dangers, penalties, and forfeitures, you shall be liable to run into by omitting any of the same. And these our letters shall be your sufficient warrant and discharge."
The earl of Warwick seconded this request of his majesty by addressing another letter to the archbishop, begging that he would dispense with Mr. Hooper's being burthened by the oath commonly used in the consecration of bishops. But these letters availed not: the bishops still stood earnestly in defence of the ceremonies, saying, it was but a small matter, and that the fault was in the abuse of the things, and not in the things themselves: adding, moreover, that Mr. Hooper ought not to be so stubborn in so light a matter, and that his wilfulness therein was not to be suffered. This being the case, Mr. Hooper at length agreed, that sometimes he should in his sermons shew himself apparelled as the other bishops were. Accordingly being appointed to preach before the king, he appeared in the objectionable habiliments. His upper garment was a long scarlet gown down to the foot, and under that a white linen rochet, that covered all his shoulders. Upon his head he had a geometrical, that is, a four-squared cap. But this private contumely and reproach, in respect of the public profit of the church, he suffered patiently. Then also very soon these differences vanished amidst the rage of persecution; and the trifling shades of opinion were lost in their unanimity of essential truths; so that, while they were in prison, several affectionate letters passed between them.
After this discord, and not a little vexation, about vestures, at length Mr. Hooper entering into his diocese, there employed his time, under king Edward's reign, with such diligence as may be an example to all bishops. So careful was he in his cure, that he left neither pains untaken, nor ways unsought, how to train up the flock of Christ in the true word of salvation, continually labouring in the same. Other men are commonly wont, for lucre or promotion's sake, to aspire to bishoprics, some hunting for them, and some purchasing them, as men use to purchase lordships. To this class of worldly men bishop Hooper was quite contrary. He abhorred nothing more than covetousness, labouring always to save and preserve the souls of his flock. No father in his household, no gardener in his garden, nor husbandman in his vineyard, was more or better occupied, than he in his diocese amongst his flock, going about his towns and villages teaching and preaching to the people. The time that he had to spare from preaching, he bestowed either in hearing public causes, or else in private study, prayer, and in visiting schools: with his continual doctrine he adjoined due and discreet correction, not so severe to any as to those who, for abundance of riches and wealthy state, thought they might do what they pleased. And doubtless he spared no kind of people, but was indifferent to all, as well rich as poor, to the great shame of many men in these days; whereof we see so many addicted to the pleasing of the great and rich, that in the mean time they have no regard to the meaner sort whom Christ hath brought as dearly as the other.
In his personal and private character how virtuous and good he was, may be conceived and known evidently by this, that as he was hated by none but the evil, the worst of them could not reprove his life in any particular. At home, in his domestic concerns, he exhibited an example of a worthy prelate's life: bestowing the most part of his care upon the public flock and congregation of Christ, for which also he spent his blood; yet there was nothing wanting in him to bring up his own children in learning and good manners: insomcuh that it is difficult to say, whether he deserved more praise for his fatherly usage at home, or his public conduct abroad. Every where he kept religion in one uniform doctrine and integrity: so that if you entered into the bishop's palace, you would suppose yourselves to have entered into some church or temple. In every corner there was the beauty of virtue, good example, honest conversation, and reading of the holy scriptures. There was not to be seen in his house any courtly rioting or idleness; no pomp, no dishonest word, no swearing, could there be heard. As to the revenues of his bishoprics, if any thing surmounted thereof, he saved nothing, but bestowed it in hospitality. Twice I was, as I remember, in his house in Worcester, where, in his common hall, I saw a table spread with good store of meat, and beset full of beggars and poor folk; and I asking his servants what this meant, they told me that every day their lord and master's manner was, to have to dinner a certain number of poor folk of the said city by course, who were served by four at a mess, with hot and wholesome meats; and, when they were served, then he himself sat down to dinner, and not before. After this sort and manner master Hooper executed the office of most careful and vigilant pastor, by the space of two years and more, so long as the state of religion in king Edward's time safely flourished. And would God that all other bishops would use the like diligence and care in their function!
After this, in the reign of queen Mary, religion being subverted and changed, this good bishop was one of the first who was sent for by a pursuivant to London. Two reasons were assigned for this step. The first, that he might answer to Dr. Heath, then re-appointed bishop of that diocese, who was deprived thereof in kings Edward's days, why he continued in an office to which he had no right? And next to render an account to Bonner, bishop of London, because he had in king Edward's time been one of his accusers. Now although he was not ignorant of the evils that should happen towards him, being admonished by certain of his friends to get away, and shift for himself, yet he would not prevent them, but remained, saying, "Once did I flee, and take me to my feet; but now, because I am called to this place and vocation, I am thoroughly persuaded to remain, and to live and die with my sheep." On reaching London, before he could see Heath or Bonner, he was intercepted, and commanded to appear before the queen and her council, to answer certain bonds and obligations, wherein he was said to be bound unto her. When he met the council, Gardiner received him very opprobriously, railing at him, and accusing him of his religion. He freely and boldly answered, and cleared himself. But he was, notwithstanding, commanded to ward, and it was declared unto him at his departure, that the cause of his imprisonment was only for certain sums of money, for which he was indebted to the queen, and not for religion. This, how false and untrue it was, shall in its place more plainly appear. Here it is enough to remark that at a second summons, such was the noise, that he could not be permitted to plead his cause, but was deprived of his bishoprics.
Before we detail the examinations of Hooper, it will be proper to let him relate the cruel captivity he endured for eighteen months in the Fleet prison. "The first of September, 1553, I was committed unto the Fleet, from Richmond, to have the liberty of the prison; and within six days after I paid five pounds sterling to the warden for fees for my liberty; who immediately upon payment thereof, complained unto the bishop of Winchester, upon which I was committed to close prison a quarter of a year in the Tower-chamber of the Fleet, and used extremely ill. By the means of a good gentlewoman, I had liberty to come down to dinner and supper, but was not suffered to speak with any of my friends; but as soon as dinner and supper were done, to repair to my chamber again. Notwithstanding, whilst I came down thus to dinner and supper, the warden and his wife picked quarrels with me, and complained untruly of me to their great friend the bishop of Winchester.
"After a quarter of a year, Babington the warden, and his wife, fell out with me respecting the wicked mass: and thereupon the warden resorted to the bishop of Winchester, and obtained to put me into the wards, where I have continued a long time, having nothing appointed to me for my bed, but a little pad of straw and a rotten covering, with a tick and a few feathers therein, the chamber being vile and stinking, until by God's means good people sent me bedding to lie on. On one side of the prison is the sink and filth of the house, and on the other the town ditch, so that the stench of the house hath infected me with sundry diseases. During this time I have been sick, and the doors, bars, hasps, and chains being all closed upon me, I have mourned, called, and cried for help; but the warden when he hath known me many times ready to die, and when the poor men of the wards have called to help me, hath commanded the doors to be kept fast, and charged that none of his men should come at me, saying, 'Let him alone, it were a good riddance of him.' And he did this Oct. 18, 1553, as many can witness.
"I paid always like a baron to the said workers, as well in fees, as for my board, which was twenty shillings a week, besides my man's table, until I was wrongfully deprived of my bishoprics; and since that time, I have paid him as the best gentleman doth in his house; yet hath he used me worse, and more vilely, than the veriest slave that even came to the common side of the prison. He hath also imprisoned my man, William Downton, and stripped him of his clothes to search for letters, and could find none, but a little remembrance of good people's names who had given me their alms to relieve me in prison; and to undo them also, the warden delivered the same bill unto Gardiner, God's enemy and mine.
"I have suffered imprisonment almost eighteen months, my goods, livings, friends, and comfort taken from me; the queen owing me, by just account, fourscore pounds or more. She hath put me in prison, and giveth nothing to keep me, neither is there suffered any one to come at me, whereby I might have relief. I am by a wicked man and woman cruelly treated, so that I see no remedy, saving God's help, but I shall be cast away in prison before I come to judgment. But I commit my just cause to God, whose will be done, whether it be by life or death."
The first examination of bishop Hooper was before five bishops as commissioners-of London, Durham, Winchester, Chichester, and Landaff. On his entering their presence, Gardiner, bishop of Winchester and lord chancellor asked whether he was married. To this the good man smilingly answered, "Yes, my lord, and will not be unmarried till death unmarry me. And this is not enough to deprive me, except you do it against the law." The subject of marriage was no more talked of then for some time: but all began to make great outcries, and laughed, and used such gestures as were unseemly for the place, and for such a matter. Day, bishop of Chichester, called Hooper a hypocrite, with vehement voice, and scornful countenance. Tonstal, bishop of Durham, called him beast; so did Smith, one of the clerks of the council, and several others that stood by. At length the bishop of Winchester said, that all men might live chaste who would, and brought in this text.--"There are those that have become eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven."
To this Hooper said, the text proved not that all men could live chaste, but such to whom it was given; and read the verse before it. But again there was a clamour and cry, mocking and scorning, calling him beast, and exclaiming and the text could not be examined. Then Hooper said, that it appeared by the old canons, that marriage was not forbidden unto priests, and then named the decrees. But the bishop of Winchester sent for another part, namely, the Clementines, or the Extravagants, and perversely, against all reason determined that he should have no other, until he was judged by these. Then began such a noise, tumult, and speaking together of a great many who favoured not the cause, that nothing was done or spoken orderly or charitably. Afterwards, judge Morgan began to rail at Hooper a long time, with many opprobrious and foul words relative to his proceedings at Gloucester, in punishing of men, and said there was never such a tyrant as he was. After that the bishop of Chichester said, that the council of Ancyra, which was before the council of Nice, was against the marriage of priests.
To this Hooper said, my lord of Chichester knoweth, that the great council of Nice, by the means of one Paphnutius, decreed, That no minister should be separated from his wife. Again such clamours and cries were used, that the council of Nice was not attended to. After alternate clamour and silence, and much illiberal speech, Tonstal, bishop of Durham, asked him whether be believed the corporeal presence of the sacrament. He said plainly, that here was none such, neither did he believe any such thing. The offended bishop would then have read out of a book; but there was such a noise and confused talk on every side, that he did not proceed. Then the bishop of Winchester asked, What authority had moved him to deny the corporeal presence? He said, the authority of God's word, and alleged this text, "Whom heaven must hold until the latter day." But the bishop of Winchester would have made that text to serve nothing for his purpose, and said, he might be in heaven, and in the sacrament also. Then Hooper would have opened the text, but all who stood about the bishop prevented his speaking with clamours and cries, so that he was not permitted to say any more against Gardiner. Whereupon they bade the notaries write, that he was married, and said that he would not go from his wife; and that be believed not the corporeal presence in the sacrament, for which he was worthy to be deprived of his bishopric.
The next examination of Hooper took place at Winchester house, rather more privately than the former, no doubt to prevent such of the noise made on that occasion. On the 22nd of January, 1555, Babington, the warden of the Fleet, was commanded to bring him before Gardiner and some other bishops to Winchester house, in St. Mary Overy's: where the latter moved Hooper earnestly to forsake the evil and corrupt doctrine preached in the days of king Edward, to return to the unity of the catholic church, and to acknowledge the pope's holiness to be head of the same church, according to the determination of the whole parliament: promising, likewise, that as they with other their brethren, had received the pope's blessing, and the queen's mercy, even so mercy was ready to be shewed to him and others, if he would arise with them, and condescend to the pope's holiness.
Master Hooper answered, that forasmuch as the pope taught doctrine altogether contrary to the doctrine of Christ, he was not worthy to be accounted as a member of Christ's church, much less to be head thereof; wherefore he would in no wise condescend to any such usurped jurisdiction. Neither esteemed he the church, whereof they call him head, to be the catholic church of Christ; for the church only heareth the voice of her spouse Christ, and flieth the strangers. "Howbeit," saith he, "if in any point to me unknown I have offended the queen's majesty, I shall most humbly submit myself to her mercy, if mercy may be had with safety of conscience, and without the displeasure of God." Answer was made, that the queen would show no mercy to the pope's enemies. Whereupon Babington was commanded to carry him to the Fleet again. He did so, and shifted him from his former chamber into another, near unto the warden's own chamber, where he remained six days; and, in the mean time, his former chamber was searched by Dr. Martin and others, for writings and books which master Hooper was thought to have made, but none were found.
One more examination, or rather effort to make Hooper recant, occurred at the same place, and before the same crafty and cruel inquisitors. Jan. 28th, the bishop of Winchester, and other commissioners, again sat in judgment at St. Mary Overy's, where Hooper appeared before them in the afternoon, and after much reasoning and disputation, was commanded aside, till Mr. Rogers, who was then come, had been examined. Examinations ended, the sheriffs were commanded, about four o'clock, to carry them to the compter in Southwark, there to remain till the following day at nine o'clock, to see whether they would relent and come home again to the catholic church. Hooper went before with one of the sheriffs, and Mr. Rogers came after with the other; and being out of the church door, Hooper looked back and stayed a little till Mr. Rogers drew near, unto whom he said, "Come, brother Rogers, must we two take this matter first in hand, and begin to fry these fagots?" "Yes, sir," said Mr. Rogers, "by God's grace." "Doubt not," said Hooper, "but God will give strength." So going forwards, there was such a press of people in the streets, who rejoiced at their constancy, that they had much ado to pass.
By the way the sheriff said to master Hooper, "I would that ye were so hasty and quick with my lord chancellor, and did use more patience." He answered, "Master sheriff, I was nothing at all impatient, although I was earnest in my Master's cause, and it standeth me so in hand, for it goeth upon life and death; not the life and death of this world only, but also of the world to come." Then they were committed to the keeper of the compter, and appointed to different chambers, with command that they should not be suffered to speak one with another, neither was any other permitted to come to them that night.
Upon the day following, January 29th, at the hour appointed, they were brought up again by the sheriffs before Gardiner and the commissioners in the church, where they were the day before. And after long and earnest talk, when they perceived that Hooper would by no means condescend unto them, they condemned him to be degraded, and read unto him his condemnation. That done, Mr. Rogers was brought before them, and treated in like manner; and both were delivered to the secular power, two sheriffs of London, who were ordered to carry them to the Clink, a prison not far from the bishop of Winchester's house, and there to remain till night. When it became dark, Hooper was led by one of the sheriffs, with many bills and weapons, through the bishop of Winchester's house, and over London-bridge through the city to Newgate, and by the way some of the serjeants were sent before, to put out the coster-mongers' candles, who used to sit with lights in the streets; either fearing, that the people would have made some attempt to have taken him away from them by force, if they had seen him go to that prison; or else, being burdened with an evil conscience, they thought darkness to be a most fit season for such a business. But notwithstanding this device, the people having some fore-knowledge of his coming, many of them came forth to their doors with lights, and saluted him, praising God for his constancy in the true doctrine which he had taught them, and desiring God to strengthen him in the same to the end. The bishop required the people to make their earnest prayer to God for him; and so went through Cheapside to the place appointed, and was delivered as close prisoner to the keeper of Newgate, where he remained six days, nobody being permitted to come to him, saving his keepers, and such as should be appointed thereto.
During this time, Bonner, bishop of London, and others at his appointment, as Fecknam, Chedsey, and Harpsfield, resorted several times unto him, to try if by means they could persuade him to relent, and become a member of their church. All the ways they could devise, they attempted. For, besides the disputations and allegation of testimonies of the scriptures, and of ancient writers wrested to a wrong sense, according to their accustomed manner, they used also all outward gentleness and significations of friendship, with many great promises of worldly wealth; not omitting, at the same time, most grievous threatenings, if with gentleness they could not prevail; but they found him always the same man, steadfast and immovable. When they perceived that they could by no means reclaim him to their purpose, with such persuasions and offers as they used for his conversion, then went they by false rumours and reports of recantations to bring him, and the doctrine of Christ which he professed, in discredit with the people. This being spread abroad, and believed by some of the weaker sort, Hooper was greatly grieved thereat, that the people should give credit to such false rumours, having so simple a ground. Hence he was constrained to address the following letter to his fellow protestants.
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all them who unfeignedly look for the coming of our Saviour Christ. Dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, and my fellow-prisoners for the cause of God's gospel, I do much rejoice and give thanks unto God for your constancy and perseverance in affliction, unto whom I wish continuance unto the end. And as I do rejoice in your faith and constancy in afflictions that be in prison; even so do I mourn and lament to hear of our dear brethren that yet have not felt such dangers for God's truth, as we have and do feel, and are daily like to suffer more, yea, they very extreme and vile death of the fire: yet such is the report abroad, as I am credibly informed, that I, John Hooper, a condemned man for the cause of Christ, should now after sentence of death, a prisoner in Newgate, and looking daily for execution, recant and abjure that which heretofore I have preached. And that talk ariseth from this, that the bishop of London, and his chaplains resort unto me. Doubtless, if our brethren were as godly as I could wish them, they would think, that in case I did refuse to talk with him, they might have just occasion to say, that I was unlearned, and durst not speak with learned men, or else proud, and disdained to speak with them. Therefore to avoid just suspicion of both, I have, and do daily speak with them when they come, not doubting but they report that I am neither proud nor unlearned. And I would wish all men to do as I do in this point. For I fear not their arguments, neither is death terrible unto me, praying you to make true report of the same, as occasion shall serve; and that I am more confirmed in the truth which I have heretofore preached, by their coming.
"Therefore, you that may send to the weak brethren, pray them that they trouble me not with such reports of recantations as they do. For I have hitherto left all things of the world, and suffered great pains and imprisonment, and I thank God I am as ready to suffer death as a mortal man can be. It were better for them to pray for us, than to credit or report such rumours that are untrue. We have enemies enough of such as know not God truly; but yet the false report of weak brethren is a double cross. I wish you eternal salvation in Jesus Christ, and also require your continual prayers, that he which hath begun in us may continue it to the end. I have taught the truth with my tongue, and with my pen heretofore; and hereafter shortly shall confirm the same, by God's grace, with my blood. Forth of Newgate, Feb. 2, 1555. your brother in Christ,
Upon Monday following, Bonner, bishop of London, came to Newgate, and there degraded bishop Hooper. The same Monday at night, his keeper gave Hopper a hint that he should be sent unto Gloucester to suffer death, whereat he rejoiced very much, lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven, and praising God that he saw it good to send him among the people over whom he was pastor, there to confirm with his death the truth which he had before taught them: not doubting but the Lord would give him strength to perform the same to his glory: and immediately he sent to his servant's house for his boots, spurs, and cloak, that he might be in readiness to ride when he should be called.
The day following, about four o'clock in the morning, the keeper with others came and searched him, and the bed whereon he lay, to see if he had written any thing; after which, he was led by the sheriffs of London, and their officers, from Newgate to a place appointed, not far from St. Dunstan's church in Fleet-street, where six of the queen's guard were appointed to receive him to conduct him to Gloucester, there to be delivered unto the sheriff, who with the lord Chandos, Mr. Wicks, and other commissioners, were appointed to see execution done; which guard brought him to the Angel, where he brake his fast with them, eating his meat at that time more liberally than he had a good while before. About break of day he leaped cheerfully on horseback, having a hood upon his head, under his hat, that he should not be known, and so took his journey joyfully towards Gloucester; and by the way the guard inquired of him, where he was accustomed to bait or lodge, but always carried him to another inn than the one he named.
On the Thursday following he came to Cirencester, fifteen miles from Gloucester, and there dined at a woman's house who had always hated the truth, and spoken all the evil she could of him. This woman, perceiving the cause of his coming, shewed him all the friendship she could, lamented his case with tears, confessing that she before had often reported, that if he were put to the trial, he would not stand to his doctrine. After dinner he resumed his journey, and came to Gloucester about five o'clock. At a mile without the town much people assembled, who cried and lamented his state; insomuch, that one of the guard rode post into the town, to require aid of the mayor and sheriffs, fearing lest he should have been taken from them. Accordingly, the officers and their retinue repaired to the gate with weapons, and commanded the people to keep their houses; but there was none that gave any signification of violence. He was lodged at one Ingram's house in Gloucester; and that night, as he had done all the way, he eat his meat quietly, and slept soundly, as it was reported by the guard and others. After his first sleep, he continued in prayer until morning, and all the day, except a little time at his meals, and when conversing with such as the guard permitted to speak to him, he spent in prayer.
Sir Anthony Kingston, formerly Hooper's good friend, was appointed by the queen's letters to attend at his execution. As soon as he saw the bishop he burst into tears. Hooper did not know him at first; the knight therefore addressing him, said, "Why, my lord, do not you know me--an old friend of yours, Anthony Kingston?" "Yes," answered Hooper, "Sir Anthony Kingston; I do know you well, and am glad to see you in health, and praise God for the same." "But I am sorry to see you, my lord, in this case," replied Kingston, "for as I understand you are come hither to die. But alas! consider that life is sweet, and death is bitter. Therefore seeing life may be had, desire to live; for life hereafter may do good." "Indeed, it is true, Sir Anthony, I am come hither to end this life, and to suffer death here, because I will not gainsay the truth that I have heretofore taught amongst you in this diocese, and elsewhere; and I thank you for your friendly counsel, although it be not as I could wish. True it is that death is bitter, and life is sweet; but the death to come is more bitter, and the life to come is more sweet."
After these, and many other words, they took leave of each other, Kingston with bitter tears, Hooper with tears also trickling down his cheeks. At his departure the bishop told him, that all the trouble he had sustained in prison, had not caused him to utter so much sorrow. Then the bishop was committed by the guard into the custody of the sheriffs of Gloucester. These men, named Jenkins and Bond, with the mayor and aldermen, repaired to his lodging, and at the first meeting saluted him, and took him by the hand. He was not insensible to their apparent kindness, nor unaware of their resolution, notwithstanding, to execute the law as it now stood. His remarkable and exemplary address to them merits particular attention.
"I give most hearty thanks to you, and to the rest of your brethren, that you have vouchsafed to take me a prisoner and a condemned man, by the hand; whereby, to my rejoicing, it is very apparent that your old love and friendship towards me is not altogether extinguished: and I trust also that all the things I have taught you in times past, are not utterly forgotten, when I was your bishop and pastor. For which most true and sincere doctrine, because I will not now account in falsehood and heresy, as many other men do, I am sent hither, you know, by the queen's commands, to die, and am come where I taught it, to confirm it with my blood. And now, master sheriffs, I understand by these good men, and my good friends, at whose hands I have found as much favour and gentleness on the road hither, as a prisoner could reasonably require, for which I most heartily thank them, that I am committed to your custody, as unto those that must see me brought to-morrow to the place of execution. My request to you shall be only, that there may be a quick fire, shortly to make an end; and in the mean time I will be as obedient to you as yourselves could wish. If you think I do amiss in any thing, hold up your finger and I have done. For I am not come hither as one forced or compelled to die; for it is well known, I might have had my life with worldly gain; but as one willing to offer and give my life for the truth, rather than consent to the wicked religion of the bishop of Rome, received and set forth by the magistrates in England to God's high displeasure and dishonour; and I trust, by God's grace, to-morrow to die a faithful subject to God, and a true obedient subject to the queen."
These words bishop Hooper used to the mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen, whereat many mourned and lamented. Notwithstanding, the two sheriffs went aside to consult, and were determined to have lodged him in the common gaol of the town, called Northgate, if the guard had not made earnest intercession for him; who declared at large how quietly, mildly, and patiently, he had behaved on the way; adding thereto, that any child might keep him well enough, and that they themselves would rather take pains to watch with him, than that he should be sent to the common prison. It was therefore determined that he should still remain in Robert Ingram's house; and the sheriffs, the sergeants, and other officers agreed to watch with him that night themselves. His desire was, that he might go to bed betime, saying, that he had many things to remember: accordingly he went at five o'clock, and slept one sleep soundly, then spent the rest of the night in prayer. After he had got up in the morning, he desired that no man should be suffered to come into the chamber, that he might be solitary till the hour of execution.
About eight o'clock came Sir John Bridges, lord Chandos, with a great band of men, Sir Anthony Kingston, Sir Edmund Bridges, and other commissioners appointed to see the execution. At nine, Hooper prepared himself to be in readiness, the time being now at hand. Immediately he was brought down from his chamber, by the sheriffs, who were accompanied with bills and other weapons. When he saw the multitude of weapons, he said to the sheriffs, "I am no traitor, neither needed you to have made such a business to bring me to the place where I must suffer; for if you had suffered me, I would have gone alone to the stake, and troubled none of you." Afterwards looking upon the multitude of people who were assembled, being by estimation about 7000, he spake unto those who were about him, saying, "Alas! why are these people assembled and come together? Peradventure they think to hear something of me now, as they have in times past: but alas! speech is prohibited me. Notwithstanding the cause of my death is well known unto them. When I was appointed here to be their pastor, I preached unto them true and sincere doctrine, and that out of the word of God; and because I will not now account the same to be heresy and untruth, this kind of death is prepared for me." Having said this, he went forward, led between the two sheriffs, in a gown of his host's, his hat upon his head, and a staff in his hand to rest himself upon; for the pain of the sciatica, which he had taken in prison, caused him somewhat to halt. All the way, being strictly charged not to speak, he could not be perceived once to open his mouth; but beholding the people, who mourned bitterly for him, he would sometimes lift up his eyes towards heaven, and look very cheerfully upon such as he knew; and he was never known, during the time of his being amongst them, to look with so happy and ruddy a countenance as he did then.
When he came to the place where he should die, he smilingly beheld the stake, which was near to the great elm-tree over against the college of priests, where he had been wont to preach. The place round about the houses, and the boughs of the trees, were filled with spectators: and in the chamber over the gate stood the priests of the college. Then he kneeled down (forasmuch as he could not be suffered to speak unto the people) to prayer, and beckoned six or seven times unto one whom he well knew, that he might hear his prayer, and report faithfully the same. When this person came to the bishop he poured tears upon his shoulders and in his bosom, and continued his prayer for half an hour: which prayer was drawn from the whole creed. While at his prayer a box was brought and laid before him upon a stool, with his pardon from the queen if he would recant. At the sight of this he cried, "If you love my soul, away with it." The box being taken away, the lord Chandos said, "Seeing there is no remedy, dispatch him quickly." Hooper replied, "Good, my lord; I trust your lordship will give me leave to make an end of my prayers."
When he had risen from his last devotions in this world, he prepared himself for the stake, and put off his host's gown, and delivered it to the sheriffs, requiring them to see it restored unto the owner, and put off the rest of his apparel, unto his doublet and hose, wherein he would have burned. But the sheriffs would not permit that, unto whose pleasure he very obediently submitted himself; and his doublet, hose, and waistcoat were taken off. Thus being in his shirt, he took a point from his hose himself, and trussed his shirt between his legs, where he had a pound of gunpowder in a bladder, and under each arm the like quantity delivered him by the guard. So desiring the people to say the Lord's Prayer with him, and to pray for him, he went up to the stake; when he was at it, three irons made to bind him thereto were brought: one for his neck, another for his middle, and the third for his legs. But he refusing them, said, "You have no need thus to trouble yourselves. I doubt not God will give me strength sufficient to abide the extremity of the fire without bands: notwithstanding, suspecting the frailty and weakness of the flesh, but having assured confidence in God's strength, I am content you do as you shall think good."
Then the hoop of iron prepared for his middle was brought, which being somewhat too short, he shrank and pressed in his body with his hand, until it fastened: but when they offered to have bound his neck and legs with the other hoops, he refused them, saying, "I am well assured I shall not trouble you." Being now ready he looked around on all the people, of whom he might be well seen, for he was both tall, and stood also upon a high stool, and beheld that in every corner there was nothing to be seen but weeping and sorrowful people. Then lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven he prayed in silence. By and by, he that was appointed to make the fire came to him and asked him forgiveness.
He asked why he should forgive him, saying that he never knew any offence he had committed against him. "O, sir," said the man, "I am appointed to make the fire." "Therein," said Mr. Hooper, "thou dost nothing to offend me: God forgive thee thy sins, and do thine office, I pray thee." Then the reeds were cast up, and he receiving two bundles of them in his own hands embraced them, and putting one of them under each arm, showed with his hand how the rest should be bestowed, and pointed to the place where any were wanting.
Command was now given that the fire should be kindled. But because there were not fewer green fagots than two horses could carry, it did not kindle speedily, but was some time before it took the reeds upon the fagots. At length it burned about him; but the wind having full strength in that place, and it being a lowering cold morning, it blew the flame from him, so that he was in a manner little more than touched by the fire. Endeavours were then made to increase the flame, and then the bladders of gunpowder exploded; but did him little good, being so placed, and the wind having such power. In this fire he prayed with a loud voice, "Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me! Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me! Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" And these were the last words he was heard to utter. Yet he struck his breast with his hands, until by the renewing of the fire his strength was gone and his hand stuck fast in striking the iron upon his breast. So immediately, bowing forwards, he yielded up his spirit. Thus lingering were his last sufferings. He was nearly three quarters of an hour or more in the fire, as a lamb, patiently bearing the extremity thereof, neither moving forwards, backwards, nor to any side; but he died as quietly as a child in his bed; and he now reigneth as a blessed martyr in the joys of heaven, prepared for the faithful in Christ before the foundation of the world; for whose constancy all christians are bound to praise God.
A Poem, By Conrade Gesner, On The Martyrdom Of Dr. John Hooper, Bishop Of Gloucester And Worcester.
This good bishop and servant of God whose life and martyrdom is now declared, being in prison, wrote divers books and treatises, to the number of twenty-four. Also divers letters most fruitful and worthy to be read, especially in these dangerous times, of those who seek to serve and follow the Lord through all the storms of the evil world, as by the perusal of the following to his godly wife Anne Hooper, you shall better understand.
While in prison, Hooper received a letter from his learned and pious friend Henry Bullinger, of Zurich. It was well worthy of its author and of the spirit of a saint. He exhorted him to bear with firmness that awful task to which the Lord had appointed to him, and to look beyond his troubles to the crown that awaited him. One more incident amongst other memorable things worthy to be remembered in the history of Hooper, is not to be forgotten: it happened a little after the beginning of his imprisonment.
A friar came from France to England with great vaunt, asking who was the greatest heretic in England, thinking no doubt to do some great act upon him. To whom answer was made, that Dr. Hooper had then the greatest name to be the chiefest ringleader, who was then in the Fleet. The friar coming to him, asked why he was committed to prison? He said for debt. "Nay," said he, "it was for heresy;" which when Hooper had denied, "What sayest thou," quoth he, "to hoc est corpus meum?" Hooper, being partly moved at the sudden question, desired that he might ask of him another, which was this, "what remains after the consecration in the sacrament, any bread or no?" "No bread at all," said the friar. "And when you break it, what you break--whether bread or the body?" said Hooper. "No bread," said the friar; "but the body only." "If ye do so," said Hooper, "you do great injury, not only to the body of Christ, but also to the scriptures, which say, Ye shall not break of him one bone." With that the friar having nothing to answer, recoiled back, and with circles and crosses began to use exorcism as though Hooper had bewitched him!
--Footnote marker a--BT 4 words "letters passed between them"
The godly reconciliation of these good men appears by the following extract from bishop Ridley's letter to Mr. Hooper: "My dear brother--Forasmuch as I understand by your works, which I have yet but superficially seen, that we thoroughly agree and wholly consent together in those things which are the grounds and substantial points of our religion, against the which the world so furiously rageth in these our days, howsoever in time past, in certain bye-matters and circumstances of religion, your wisdom and my simplicity (I grant) have a little jarred, each of us following the abundance of his own sense and judgment; now, I say, be you assured that even with my whole heart, God is my witness, in the bowels of Christ I love you in the truth, and for the truth's sake which abideth in us, and as I am persuaded shall by the grace of God abide in us for evermore. And because the world, as I perceive, brother, ceaseth not to play a pageant, and busily conspireth against Christ our Saviour, with all possible force and power 'exalting high things against the knowledge of God,' let us join hands together in Christ; and if we cannot overthrow, yet to our power, and as much as in us lieth, let us shake those high altitudes, not with carnal but with spiritual weapons; and withal, brother, let us prepare for the day of dissolution, by the which, after the short time of this bodily affliction, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall triumph together with him in eternal glory."
--Footnote marker a--BT 4 words "crown that awaited him"
"Go forwards," he wrote, "constantly to confess Christ, and to defy Antichrist, being mindful of this most holy and most true saying of our Lord Jesus christ: 'He that overcometh shall possess all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.' The first death is soon overcome, although a man must burn for the Lord's sake: for they say well that do affirm this our fire to be scarcely a shadow of that which is prepared for unbelievers, and then that fall from the truth. Moreover, the Lord granteth unto us, that we may easily overcome by his power the first death, the which he himself did taste and overcome; promising withal such joys as never shall have end, unspeakable, and passing all understanding, the which we shall possess so soon as ever we do depart hence.--Therefore, seeing you have such a large promise, be strong in the Lord, fight a good fight, be faithful to the Lord unto the end. I and all my household, with my sons-in-law and kinsmen, are in good health in the Lord. They do all salute you, and pray for your constancy; being sorrowful for you and the rest of the prisoners. If there be any thing wherin I may do any pleasure to your wife and children, they shall have me wholly at commandment. The Lord Jesus preserve and deliver you from all evil, with all them that call upon his name. Farewell, and farewell eternally. You know the hand, H.B."