Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Life and Martyrdom of John Bradford, Who Together With John Leaf Was Burned in Smithfield.
John Bradford was born at Manchester in Lancashire. His parents brought him up in learning from his infancy, and continued his education until he attained such knowledge in the Latin tongue, and such skill in writing, that he was able to gain his own living in a respectable situation. He then entered into the service of Sir John Harrington, knight, who in the great affairs of king Henry VIII. and Edward VI. which he had in hand when he was treasurer of the king's camps and buildings, at Boulogne, had such experience of Mr. Bradford's activity in writing, his expertness in the art of auditors, as also in his faithfulness, that he placed great confidence in him. Thus encouraged and trusted, Mr. Bradford continued several years in a thriving way, after course of this world, and so would have continued if his mind could have been satisfied. But the Lord had ordained him to more glorious and important objects, to preach the word of God to man. He called his chosen servant to the understanding and partaking of the gospel; in which he was truly taught, that forthwith his effectual mission was perceived by the fruits. For then he forsook his worldly affairs, and after a just account given to his master of all his doings, he departed from him, to further the kingdom of God by the ministry of his holy word, and to give himself wholly to the study of the scriptures. The better to accomplish his design, he departed from the Temple at London, and went down to the university at Cambridge, where his diligence in study, his profiting in knowledge, and his pious conversation, so pleased all men, that within a few years after he had been there, the university gave him the degree of master of arts.
Immediately after, the master and fellows of Pembroke Hall gave him a fellowship in their college; and that good man, Martin Bucer, held him not only most dear unto him, but also oftentimes exhorted him to bestow his talent in preaching. To this Bradford always answered, that he was unable to serve in that office through want of learning, to which Bucer was wont to reply, "If thou hast not fine wheat bread, yet give the poor people barley bread, or whatsoever else the Lord hath committed unto thee." While Mr. Bradford was thus persuaded to enter into the ministry, Dr. Ridley, according to the order then in the church of England, called him to the degree of deacon. This order was not without some abuse, to which Mr. Bradford would not consent, and the bishop perceiving that he was willing to enter into the ministry, was content to ordain him deacon without any abuse, even as he desired. He then obtained for him a licence to preach, and gave him a prebend in his cathedral church of St. Paul's, where Mr. Bradford diligently laboured for the space of three years.
On the 13th of August, in the first year of the reign of queen Mary, Mr. Bourne, then bishop of Bath, made a sermon at Paul's Cross, which set forth the merits of popery in such sort, that it moved the people to such great indignation, that they could scarcely refrain pulling him out of the pulpit. Neither could the reverence of the place, nor the presence of bishop Bonner, nor yet the command of the lord-mayor of London, whom the people ought to have obeyed, stay their rage: but the more they spoke, the more the people were incensed. At length Mr. Bourne, seeing the violence of the people, and himself in such peril, desired Mr. Bradford, who stood in the pulpit behind him, to come forth, and to stand in his place and speak to the people. Mr. Bradford at his request obeyed, and spake to the people of godly and quiet obedience. As soon as the people heard him begin to speak unto them, they were so glad that they gave a great shout. The tumult soon ceased and in the end each departed quietly to his house.
The same Sunday afternoon, Mr. Bradford preached at Bow church in Cheapside, and reproved the people for their seditious misdemeanor. After this he abode in London, with an innocent conscience, to wait what would come to pass. He was not long at liberty, for within three days after he was sent for to the Tower, where the queen then was, to appear before the council. There he was charged with this act of saving Bourne, which they called seditious; and they also objected against him for preaching, and so by them he was committed first to the Tower, then to the King's Bench in Southwark, and after his condemnation he was sent to the Compter in the Poultry in London; in which latter places he preached twice a day continually, unless sickness hindered him. He ate but one frugal meal a day, and studied continually on his knees.
He remained in prison from August 1553, till January 1555; upon the 22nd of which month he was called before Gardiner, and other of the commissioners. On coming into the presence of the council, (who had just finished with Dr. Farrar, of whom ye have heard,) John Bradford kneeled down; but immediately, by the lord chancellor, was bidden to stand up. Then the lord chancellor spake thus to him in effect: that he had been of long time justly imprisoned for his seditious behaviour at Paul's Cross, the 13th of August, in the year 1553, for his false preaching and arrogancy, taking upon him to preach without authority. "But now," said he, "The time of mercy is come, and therefore the queen's highness, minding to offer unto you mercy, hath by us sent for you, to declare and give the same, if you will with us return: and if you will do as we have done, you shall find as we have found, I warrant you."
Mr. Bradford answered, "My lord and lords, I confess that I have been long imprisoned, and (with humble reverence be it spoken) unjustly, for that I did nothing seditiously, falsely, or arrogantly, in word or deed, by preaching or otherwise, but rather sought truth, peace, and all godly quietness, as an obedient and faithful subject, both in going about to serve the present bishop of Bath, then Mr. Bourne, the preacher at the Cross, and in preaching for quietness accordingly."
Lord Chan. I know thou hast a glorious tongue, and goodly shews thou makest; but all is lies thou speakest. And again, I have not forgotten how stubborn thou wast when thou wast before us in the Tower, whereupon thou wast committed to prison concerning religion: I have not forgotten thy behaviour and talk, for which cause thou hast been kept in prison, as some that would have done more hurt than I will speak of.
Brad. My lord, I stand as before you, so before God, and one day we shall all stand before him: the truth then will be the truth, though now ye will not so take it. Yea, my lord, I dare say, that my lord of Bath, Mr. Bourne, will witness with me, that I sought his safeguard with the peril of mine own life, I thank God there-for. I took nothing upon me undesired, and that of Mr. Bourne himself, as if he were here present, I dare say he would affirm. For he desired me both to help him to pacify the people, and also not to leave him till he was in safety. And as for my behaviour in the Tower, and talk before your honours, if I did or said any thing that did not beseem me, if your lordships would tell me wherein it was, I should and would presently make you answer.
Lord Chan. Well, to leave this matter: how sayest thou now? Wilt thou return again, and do as we have, and thou shalt receive the queen's mercy and pardon?
Brad. My lord, I desire your mercy with God's mercy; but your mercy with God's wrath, God keep me from: although, I thank God, my conscience doth not accuse, that I did speak any thing why I should need to receive the queen's mercy or pardon. For all that ever I did or spake was both agreeable to God's laws and the laws of the realm at that time, and did make much to quietness. I have not deceived the people, nor taught any other doctrine than, by God's grace, I am ready to confirm with my life. And as for its devilishness and falseness, I would be sorry you could so prove it.
Durham. What say you of the ministration of the communion, as now it is?
Brad. My lord, I must desire of your lordship and of all your honours a question, before I dare make you an answer to any question. I have been six times sworn that I shall in no case consent to the practising of any jurisdiction, or authority, on the bishop of Rome's behalf within this realm of England. Now, before God, I humbly pray your honours to tell me whether you ask me this question by his authority, or not? If you do, I dare not answer you any thing in his authority, except I would be forsworn, which God forbid. I was thrice sworn in Cambridge, when I was admitted master of arts, when I was admitted fellow of Pembroke Hall, and when I was there, the visitors came thither and sware the university. Again, I was sworn when I entered into the ministry, when I had a prebend given me, and when I was sworn to serve the king, a little before his death.
Rochester. My lords, I never knew wherefore this man was in prison before now: but I see well that it had not been good that this man had been abroad: what the cause was that he was put in prison I know not; but I now well know that not without a cause he was, and is to be kept in prison.
Sec. Bourne. Yea, it was reported this parliament time by the earl Derby, that he hath done more hurt by letters, and exhorting those that have come to him in religion, than ever he did when he was abroad by preaching. In his letters he curseth all that teach any doctrine which is not according to that he taught, and most heartily exhorteth them to whom he writeth to continue still in that they received by him, and such like as he is. How say you, Sir, have you not thus seditiously written and exhorted the people?
Brad. I have not written nor spoken any thing seditiously; neither, I thank God, have I admitted any seditious thought, nor trust ever shall do. Concerning my letters, what I have written I have written.
Lord Chan. We shall never have done with thee, I perceive now: be short, wilt thou have mercy?
Brad. My lords, if I may live as a quiet subject without a clog of conscience, I shall heartily thank you for that pardon; if otherwise I behave myself, then I am in danger of the law: in the mean season I ask no more than the benefit of a subject till I be convicted of transgression. If I cannot have this, as hitherto I have not had, God's good will be done.
Here the lord chancellor again offered mercy, and Bradford answered as before. Mercy with God's mercy should be welcome, but otherwise he would have none. Whereupon the lord chancellor rang a bell, when the under marshal came in, to whom his lordship said, "You shall take this man to you, and keep him close without conference with any man, but by your knowledge, and suffer him not to write any letters, for he is of another manner of charge to you now than he was before." And so they departed, Bradford looking as cheerfully as any man could do, declaring even a desire to give his life for the confirmation of his faith and doctrine.
The second examination of Mr. Bradford took place immediately after the excommunication of Mr. Rogers, who has been before the reader. After a long speech of Gardiner and another bishop or two, Mr. Bradford said, "My lord, and my lords all, as I now stand in your sight before you, so I humbly beseech your honours to consider, that you sit in the seat of the Lord, who (as David doth witness) is in the congregation of judges, and sitteth in the midst of them judging righteously: and as you would have your place to be by us taken as God's place, so demonstrate yourselves to follow him in your sitting; that is, seek no guiltless blood, neither hunt by questions to bring into a snare them which are out of the same. At this present I stand before you guilty or guiltless: if guilty, proceed to give sentence accordingly; if guiltless, then give me the benefit of a subject, which hitherto I could not have."
Here the lord chancellor said, that Bradford began with a true sentence--That the Lord is in the midst of them that judge. But, this and all his gesture declared but hypocrisy and vainglory. Then he endeavoured to clear himself that he sought not guiltless blood, and began a long process, stating that Bradford's fact at St. Paul's Cross was presumptuous and arrogant, and declared a taking upon himself to lead the people, which could not but turn to much disquietness, in that he was so refractory and stout in religion at that present. For which, as he was then committed to prison, so hitherto he has been kept in prison, where he has written letters to the great hurt of the queen's subjects, as was credibly declared by the earl of Derby in the parliament house. And to this he added, that Mr. Bradford did stubbornly behave himself the last time he was before them; and therefore not for any other thing did he now demand of him, but for his doctrine and religion.
Brad. My lord, where you accuse me of hypocrisy and vainglory, I must and will leave it to the Lord's declaration, who will one day open yours and my truth and hearty meanings: in the mean season, I will content myself with the testimony of my own conscience, which if it yield to hypocrisy, could not but have God to be my foe also; and so both God and man were against me. And as for my fact at St. Paul's Cross, and behaviour before you at the Tower, I doubt not but God will reveal it to my comfort. For if ever I did any thing which God used to public benefit, I think that my deed was one, and yet for it I have been and am kept a long time in prison. And as for letters and religion, I answer as I did the last time I was before you.
Lord Chan. There didst thou say stubbornly and saucily that thou wouldst maintain the erroneous doctrine in king Edward's days.
Brad. My lord, I said, the last time I was before you, that I had six times taken an oath, that I should never consent to the practising of any jurisdiction on the bishop of Rome's behalf; and therefore I dust not answer to any thing that should be so demanded, lest I should be forsworn, which God forbid. Howbeit, saving my oath, I said I was more confirmed in the doctrine set forth publicly in the days of king Edward than ever I was before I was put in prison: and so I thought I should be, and yet think still shall be found more ready to give my life as God will, for the confirmation of the same.
Lord Chan. I remember well that thou madest much ado about needless matter, as though the oath against the bishop of Rome were so great a matter. So others have done before thee; but yet not in such sort as thou hast: for thou pretendest a conscience in it, which is nothing else but mere hypocrisy.
Brad. My conscience is known to the Lord, and whether I deal herein hypocritically or no, he knoweth. As therefore I said then, my lord, so I say again now--that for fear I should be perjured I dare not answer to any thing you should demand of me, if my answering should consent to the confirming or practising of any jurisdiction for the bishop of Rome here in England. I am not afraid of death, I thank God; for I have looked for nothing else at your hands a long time: but I am afraid when death cometh, I should have matter to trouble my conscience by the guiltiness of perjury, and therefore I answer as I do.
Lord Chan. You have written seditious letters, and perverted the people thereby, and still seem as though you would defend the erroneous doctrine in king Edward's time, against all men: and now you say you dare not answer.
Brad. I have written no seditious letters, I have not perverted the people: but that which I have written and spoken, will I never deny, by God's grace. And where your lordship says, I dare not answer you; that all men may know I am not afraid, save mine oath, ask me what you will, and I will plainly make you answer, by God's grace, although I now see my life lieth thereon. But, O Lord, into thy hands I commit it, come what will: only sanctify thy name in me, as in an instrument of thy grace, Amen. Bow, ask what you will, and you shall see, I am not afraid, by God's grace, flatly to answer.
Lord Chan. Well then, how say you to the blessed sacrament? Do you not believe there Christ to be present concerning his natural body?
Brad. My lord, I do not believe that Christ is corporally present at and in the due administration of the sacrament. By `corporally,' I mean present corporally unto faith. I have been now a year and almost three quarters in prison, and in all this time you have never questioned me hereabout, when I might have spoken my conscience frankly without peril; but now you have a law to hang up and put to death, if a man answer freely and not to your liking, and therefore you come to demand this question. Ah, my lord, Christ used not this way to bring men to faith. Nor did the prophets nor apostles. Remember what Bernard writes to Eugenius the pope--"I read that the apostles stood to be judged, but I read not, that they sat to judge."
Lord Chan. I use not this means. It was not my doing, although some there be that think this to be the best way: for I, for my part, have been challenged for being too gentle oftentimes.
Brad. My lord, I pray you stretch out your gentleness that I may feel it, for hitherto I have not.
Lord Chan. With all my heart, not only but the queen's highness would stretch out mercy, if with them you would return.
The next morning about seven o'clock, one Thomas Hussey came into the chamber wherein Mr. Bradford lay, and began a long oration, saying, that of love and acquaintance he came to speak that which he would farther utter. "You did," said he, "so wonderfully behave yourself before the lord chancellor, and other bishops yesterday, that even the greatest enemies you have, saw that they have no matter against you: and therefore I advise you, this day, to desire a time, and men to confer withal, so shall all men think it a wonderful wisdom, and piety in you; and by this means you shall escape present danger, which else is nearer than you are aware of." To this Mr. Bradford answered, "I neither can nor will make such request. For then shall I give occasion to the people, to think that I doubt of the doctrine which I confess; which I do not, for thereof I am most assured, and therefore will give no such offence."
As they were thus talking, the chamber door was opened, and Dr. Seaton entered, who after some by-talk of Mr. Bradford's age, and his country, began a gay and long discourse of my lord of Canterbury, Mr. Latimer, and Mr. Ridley, and how they at Oxford were not able to answer any thing at all; and that therefore my lord of Canterbury desired to confer with the bishop of Durham and others; all which talk tended to this end, that Mr. Bradford should make the like suit, being not to be compared in learning to Dr. Cranmer. But John Bradford kept still one answer--"I cannot, nor I will not so offend the people:" whereat master Seaton waxed hot, and called Bradford arrogant, proud, and vainglorious. Bradford answered, "Beware of judging, lest you condemn yourself." When all their talk took no such effect as they looked for, Hussey asked Bradford, "Will ye not admit conference, if my lord chancellor should offer it publicly?" To this Bradford replied, "Conference! if it had been offered before the law had been made, or if it were offered so that I might be at liberty to confer, and as safe as he with whom I should confer, then it were something: but else I see not to what other purpose conference should be offered but to defer that which at length will come, and the lingering may give more offence than do good. Howbeit, if my lord should make such an offer of his own motion, I accused Mr. Bradford with being arrogant and proud, and they soon accused Mr. Bradford with being arrogant and proud, and they soon left him. Shortly after they were gone, Mr. Bradford was led to the church and there tarried uncalled for till eleven o'clock; meanwhile the excommunication of Mr. Saunders, already related, took place.
At length the time arrived for Mr. Bradford's last examination. He was again brought before the lord chancellor and other bishops, and his lordship began to speak to this effect--that if her would answer with modesty and humility, and conform himself to the catholic church with them, he might yet find mercy, because they would be loth to use extremity. Therefore he concluded with an exhortation, that Mr. Bradford would recant his doctrine.
Bradford. As yesterday I besought your honours to set in your sight the majesty and presence of God to follow him, who seaketh not to subvert the simple by subtle questions; so I humbly beseech every one of you to do this day: for you know well enough that guiltless blood will cry for vengeance. And this I pray not your lordships to do, as one that taketh upon me to condemn you utterly herein; but that ye might be more admonished to do that, which none doth so much as he should do. For our nature is so much corrupt, that we are very forgetful of God. And last of all, as yesterday the answers I made were by protestation and saving mine oath, so shall mine answers be this day; and this I do, that when death (which I look for at your hands) shall come, I may not be troubled with the guiltiness of perjury.
At these words the lord chancellor was wroth, and said that they had given him respite to deliberate till this day, whether he would recant his errors of the blessed sacrament, which yesterday he uttered before them.
Brad. My lord, you gave me no time of any such deliberation, neither did I speak anything of the sacrament which you did disallow. For when I had declared a presence of Christ to be there to faith, you went from that matter to purge yourself, that you were not cruel, and so went to dinner.
Lord Chan. What! I perceive we must begin all again with thee. Did I not yesterday tell thee plainly, that thou madest a conscience where none should be? Did I not make it plain, that the oath against the bishop of Rome was an unlawful oath?
Brad. No, indeed, my lord: you said so, but you have not proved it yet, nor ever can do.
Lord Chan. O Lord God, what a fellow art thou! Thou wouldst go about to bring into the people's heads, that we, all the lords of the parliament house, the knights and burgesses, and all the whole realm be perjured. O what a heresy is this! Here, good people, you may see what a senseless heretic this fellow is. If I should make an oath I would never help my brother, nor lend him money in his need; were this a good answer to tell my neighbour desiring my help, that I had made an oath to the contrary? or that I could not do it?
Brad. O, my lord, discern betwixt oaths that be against charity and faith, and oaths that be according to faith and charity, as this is against the bishop of Rome.
Here a long time was spent about oaths which were good, and those which were evil--the lord chancellor captiously asking often of Bradford a direct answer concerning oaths; which Bradford would not give simply, but with a distinction. Whereat the chancellor was much offended: but Bradford still kept him at bay, that the oath against the bishop of Rome was a lawful oath, using thereto the lord chancellor's own book, of true obedience, for confirmation of his assertion.
Then came master Chamberlain of Woodstock, and told my lord chancellor, that Bradford had been a serving-man with master Harrington. To which Gardiner said--"True, and he did deceive his master of seven-score pounds: and because of this, he went to be a gospeller and a preacher, good people; and yet you see how he pretendeth conscience."
Brad. My lord, I set my foot by his, whoever he be, that can come forth, and justly vouch to my face, that ever I deceived my master. And as you are chief justicer by office in England, I desire justice upon them that so slander me, because they cannot prove it.
Here my lord chancellor and master Chamberlain were smitten blank, and said they heard it. "But," quoth Gardiner, "we have another manner of matter than this against you; for you are a heretic." "Yea," quoth the bishop of London, "he did write letters to master Pendleton, which knoweth his hand as well as his own: your honour did see the letters."
Brad. That is not true; I never did write to Pendleton since I came to prison, and therefore I am not justly spoken of.
Lord Chan. Sir, in my house the other day, you did most contemptuously despise the queen's mercy, and stoutly said that you would maintain the erroneous doctrine of king Edward's days against all men.
Brad. Well, I am glad that all men see now you have had no matter to imprison me before that day justly. Now say I, that I did not contemptuously contemn the queen's mercy; but would have had it, (thought if justice might take place, I need it not,) so that I might have had it with God's mercy, that is, without doing or saying anything against God and his truth. And as for maintenance of doctrine, because I cannot tell how you will stretch this word maintenance, I well repeat again that which I spake. I said I was more confirmed in the religion set forth in king Edward's days than ever I was: and if God so would, I trusted I should declare it by giving my life for the confirmation and testification thereof. So I said then, and so I say now.
Lord Chan. Well, yesterday thou didst maintain false heresy concerning the blessed sacrament; and therefore we gave thee till to-day to deliberate.
Brad. My lord, as I said at the first, I spake nothing of the sacrament, but that which you allowed; and therefore you reproved it not, nor gave me any time to deliberate.
Lord Chan. Didst thou not deny Christ's presence in the sacrament?
Brad. No, I never denied nor taught, but that to faith, whole Christ, body and blood, was as present as bread and wine to the due receiver.
Lord Chan. Yea, but dost thou not believe that Christ's body naturally and really is there, under the forms of bread and wine?
Brad. My lord, I believe Christ is present there to the faith of the due receiver: as for transubstantiation, I plainly and flatly tell you, I believe it not. I deny not his presence to the faith of the receiver; but deny that he is included in the bread, or that the bread is transubstantiate.
Worcester. If he be not included, how is he then present?
Brad. Forsooth, though my faith can tell how, yet my tongue cannot express it; not you, otherwise than by faith, hear it, or understand it.
Here was much ado, now one doctor standing up and speaking this, and others speaking that, and the lord chancellor talking much of Luther Zuinglius, CEcolampadius; but still Bradford kept him at this point, that Christ is present to faith; and that there is no transubstantiation not including of Christ in the bread: but all this would not save them. Therefore another bishop asked whether the wicked man received Christ's very body or no? To which Bradford answered plainly, "No." Whereat my lord chancellor made a long oration, showing how that it could not be that Christ was present, except that the evil man received it. But Bradford silenced his oration in a few words, that grace was at that time offered to his lordship, although he received it not; so that the receiving made not the presence, but God's grace, truth, and power, is the cause of the presence, which grace, the wicked that lack faith cannot receive. Bradford concluded his answer admirably, thus--"My lord, are not these words, Take, eat, a commandment? and are not these words, This is my body, a promise? If you will challenge the promise, and do not the commandment, may you not deceive yourself?"
Here the lord chancellor denied Christ to have commanded the sacrament, and the use of it. Bradford said, "Why, my lord, is it not plain to children, that Christ, in so saying, commandeth? If it be not a commandment of Christ to take and eat the sacrament, why dare any take upon them to command and make that of necessity, which God leaveth free? as you do in making it a necessary commandment, once a year for all that be of discretion, to receive the sacrament. Here the lord chancellor called him again diabolus or calumniator, and began out of these words, "Let a man prove himself, and so eat of the bread, [`yea, bread,' quoth Bradford,] and drink of the cup," to prove that it was no commandment to receive the sacrament: "for then," quoth he, "if it were a commandment, it should bind all men, in all places, and at all times."
Brad. O my lord, discern between commandments: some be general, as the ten commandments, that they bind always, in all places, and all persons; some be not so general, as this of the supper, the sacrament of baptism, of the thrice appearing before the Lord yearly at Jerusalem, of Abraham offering of Isaac, and many others.
Here my lord chancellor denied the cup to be commanded of Christ: "for then," quoth he, "we should have eleven commandments." To this Bradford said--"Indeed I think you think as you speak: for else you would not take the cup from the people, in that Christ saith, `Drink ye all of it.' But how say you, my lords? Christ saith to you bishops especially, `Go and preach the gospel:' `Feed Christ's flock,' etc. Is this a commandment or no?"
Here was my lord chancellor in a chafe, and said as pleased him. Then the bishop of Durham asked Bradford when Christ began to be present in the sacrament--whether before the receiver received it, or no? Bradford answered, that the question was curious, and not necessary; and further said, that as the cup was the New Testament, so the bread was Christ's body to him that received it duly; but yet so, that the bread is bread. "For," quoth he, "in all the Scripture ye shall not find this proposition, `Non est panis,' `There is no bread.' And he brought forth Chrysostome, `Si in corpore essemus.' Much ado was hereabouts; they calling Bradford heretic; and he, desiring them to proceed on in God's name, looked for that which God appointed for them to do.
Lord Chan. This fellow is now in another heresy; as though all things were so tied together, that of mere necessity all things must come to pass.
Here Bradford prayed him to take things as they be spoken, and not wrest them into a contrary sense: "Your lordship," said he, "doth discern betwixt God and man. Things are not by fortune to God at any time, though to man they seem so sometimes. I speak but as the apostles did--' Lord, see how Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the prelates, are gathered together against thy Christ, to do that which thy hand and counsel hath before ordained for them to do.'"
Here the lord chancellor began to read the excommunication. And when he came to the name of John Bradford, layman; he said, art thou no priest? To which he answered, "No, nor ever was a priest, or beneficed, or married, or any preacher, before public authority had established religion, or preacher after public authority had altered religion, and yet I am thus handled at your hands: but God, I doubt not, will bless where you curse." And so he fell down on his knees, and heartily thanked God that he had counted him worthy to suffer for his name's sake; and prayed to God to give him repentance and a good mind. After the excommunication was read, he was delivered to the sheriff of London, and so had to the Clink, and afterwards to the Compter in the Poultry; this being proposed by his murderers, that he should be delivered from thence to the earl of Derby, to be conveyed into Lancashire, and there to be burned in the town of Manchester, where he was born: but their purpose concerning the place was afterwards altered, for he suffered in London. After his condemnation, which was the last day of January, Bradford being sent to prison, remained there till the 1st of July; during all which time, divers other conferences and conflicts he sustained with sundry adversaries, which repaired unto him in the prison: of whom first bishop Bonner, coming to the Compter to degrade Dr. Taylor the 4th of February, called first for John Bradford, and began to talk with him, the effect whereof here ensueth:
Bonner. Because I perceive that ye are desirous to confer with some learned men, therefore I have brought master archdeacon Harpsfield to you.
Brad. I never desired to confer with any man, nor yet do. Howbeit if ye will have one to talk with me I am ready.
Bonner. Well, master Bradford, you are well beloved; I pray you consider yourself, and refuse not charity when it is offered.
Brad. Indeed, my lord, this is small charity, to condemn a man as you have condemned me, which never brake your laws. In Turkey a man may have charity; but in England I could not yet find it. I was condemned for my faith, so soon as I uttered it at your requests, before I had committed anything against the laws. And as for conference, I am not afraid to talk with whom you will. But to say that I desire to confer, that do I not.
Bon. Well, well.--Then he called for Taylor, and Bradford went his way.
On another day of February, one master Willerton, chaplain of the bishop of London, came to confer with Bradford, and commenced by saying that he swerved from the church.
Brad. That do I not, but ye do. For the church is Christ's spouse, and Christ's obedient spouse, which your church is not, which robbeth the people of the Lord's cup, and of service in the English tongue.
Willerton. Why? It is not profitable to have the service in English; for it is written, "The lips of the priest should keep the law, and out of his mouth man must look for knowledge."
Brad. Should not the people, then, have the Scriptures? Wherefore serveth this saying of Christ, "Search the Scriptures?"
Wil. This was not spoken to the people, but to scribes and learned men.
Brad. Then the people must not have the Scriptures?
Willerton. No; for it is written, "They shall be all taught of God."
Brad. Must we learn all at the priests? Then would you bring the people to hang up Christ, and let Barabbas go; as the priests then wished.
At which words, Willerton was so offended that he had no wish to talk any more. On the 25th of February, Percival Creswell came with master Harpsfield, who, after formal salutation, make a long oration to the effect that all men, even the infidels, Turks, Jews, anabaptists, and libertines, desire felicity as well as the Christians, and that every one thinketh to attain it by his religion. To which Bradford answered that he spake not amiss.
Harps. But the way thither is not all alike: for the infidels by Jupiter and Juno, the Turk by his Alcoran, the Jew by his Talmud, do believe to come to heaven. For so may I speak of such as believe the immortality of the soul. And here is the matter, to know the way to this heaven.
Brad. We may not invent any manner of ways. There is but one way, and that is Jesus Christ, as he himself doth witness, "I am the way!"
Harps. It is true that you say, and false also. I suppose that you mean by Christ, believing in Christ.
Brad. I have learned to discern betwixt faith and Christ. Albeit, I confess, that whoso believeth in Christ, the same shall be saved.
Harps. No, not all that believe in Christ: for some shall say, "Lord, Lord, have we not cast out devils?" etc. But Christ will answer in the day of judgment to these, "Depart from me, I know you not."
Brad. You must make difference betwixt believing, and saying, I believe: as for example, if one should swear he loveth you, for all his saying ye will not believe him when you see he doeth you all the evil he can.
Harps. Well, this is not much material. There is but one way, Christ. How come we to know him? Where shall we seek to find him?
Brad. We must seek him by his word, in his word, and after his word.
Harps. Very good: but tell my how first we came into the company of then that could tell us this, but by baptism?
Brad. Baptism is the sacrament, by which outwardly we are ingrafted into Christ: I say outwardly, because I dare not exclude from Christ all that die without baptism.
Harps. Well, we agree, that by baptism then we are brought, and begotten to Christ. For Christ is our Father, and the church his spouse, is our mother. Now then tell me whether this church of Christ hath not been always?
Brad. Yes, since the creation of man, and shall be for ever.
Harps. Very good. But tell me whether this church is a visible church, or not?
Brad. It is no otherwise visible, than Christ was here on earth; that is, by no exterior pomp or shew that setteth her forth commonly: and therefore to see her we must put on such eyes, as good men put on to see and know Christ when he walked here on earth: for as Eve was of the same substance that Adam was of, so was the church of the same substance that Christ was of.
Harps. Well, this church is a multitude. Hath it not the preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the sacraments? And yet more, hath it not the power of jurisdiction? I mean by jurisdiction, admonishing one another, and so forth. It hath also succession of bishops, which I will endeavour to prove as an essential point.
Brad. You say as you would have it; for if this part fail you, all the church you go about to set up will fall down. You shall not find in all the scripture, this your essential part of succession of bishops. In Christ's church antichrist will sit. And Peter tells us, as it went in the old church before Christ's coming, so it will be in the new church since Christ's coming: that as there were false prophets, and such as bear rule were adversaries to the true prophets, so shall there be false teachers, even of such as are bishops and bear rule amongst the people.
After some further talk, Harpsfield departed, promising to come again. On the 23rd of the same month, the archbishop of York and the bishop of Chichester came to the Compter to speak with Bradford. When he was brought before them, they used him very gently: desired him to sit down, and because he would not, they also would not sit. So they all stood, and whether he would or not, they would needs have him put on his cap, saying to him, that obedience was better than sacrifice. As they were thus standing together, the archbishop of York began to tell Mr. Bradford that they came to him out of pure love and charity, without being sent; and, after commending his godly life, he concluded with this question, How he was certain of salvation and of his religion? Mr. Bradford thanked him for their good will, and answered thus, "By the word of God, even by the scriptures, I am certain of salvation and religion."
York. Very well said: but how do you know the word of God and the scriptures, but by the church?
Brad. Indeed, my lord, the church was and is a means to bring a man to know the scriptures and the word of God, as the woman of Samaria was the means by which the Samaritans knew Christ: but when they heard him speak, they said, "Now we know that he is Christ, not because of thy words, but because we ourselves have heard." So after we come to the hearing and reading of the scriptures shewed unto us, and discerned by the church, we do believe them, and know them as Christ's sheep, not because the church saith they are the scriptures, but because they be so, being assured thereof by the same Spirit who wrote and spake them.
York. You know, in the apostles' time at first the word was not written.
Brad. True, if you mean it for some books of the New Testament; but else for the Old Testament St. Peter tells us, "We have a more sure word of prophecy;" not that it is simply so, but in respect of the apostles, which being alive and subject to infirmity, attributed to the written word more weight, as wherewith no fault can be found; whereas for the infirmity of their persons men perchance might have found some fault at their preaching; although in very deed no less obedience and faith ought to have been given to the one, than to the other; for all proceedeth from one Spirit of truth.
York. That place of St. Peter is not to be understood of the word written. You know that Irenaeus and others do magnify much, and allege the church against the heretics, and not the scripture.
Brad. True, for they had to do with such heretics as denied the Scriptures, and yet did magnify the apostles; so that they were forced to use the authority of those churches wherein the apostles had taught, and which had still retained the same doctrine.
Chichester. You speak the very truth; for the heretics did refuse all Scriptures, except it were a piece of Luke's gospel.
Brad. Then the alleging of the church cannot be principally used against me, which am so far from denying of the Scriptures, that I appeal to them utterly, as to the only judge.
York. A pretty matter, that you will take upon you to judge the church! I pray you, where hath your church been hitherto? For the church of Christ is catholic and visible hitherto.
Brad. My lord, I do not judge the church when I discern it from that congregation, and those which be not the church; and I never denied the church to be catholic and visible, although at some times it is more visible than at others.
Chich. I pray you tell me where the church which allowed your doctrine was, these four hundred years?
Brad. I will tell you, my lord, or rather you shall tell yourself, if you will tell me this one thing: where the church was in Elias's time, when Elias said that he was left alone?
Chich. That is no answer.
Brad. I am sorry that you say so: but this will I tell your lordship, that if you had the same eyes wherewith a man might have espied the church then, you would not say it were no answer. The fault why the church is not seen by you, is not because the church is not visible, but because your eyes are not clear enough to see it.
Chich. You are much deceived in making this collation betwixt the church then and now.
York. Very well spoken, my lord; for Christ said, "I will build my church;" and not "I do, or I have built it;" but, "I will build it."
Brad. My lords, Peter teacheth me to make this collation, saying, as in the people there were false prophets, which were most in estimation before Christ's coming, so shall there be false teachers amongst the people after Christ's coming, and very many shall follow them. And as for your future tense, I hope your grace will not thereby conclude Christ's church not to have been before, but rather that there is no building in the church but Christ's work only: for Paul and Apollos be but waterers.
Chich. In good faith I am sorry to see you so light in judging the church.
Brad. My lords, I speak simply what I think, and desire reason to answer my objections. Your affections and sorrows cannot be my rules. If you consider the order and case of my condemnation, I cannot think but that it shall something move your honours. You know it well enough, no matter was laid against me, but was gathered upon mine own confession. Because I denied transubstantiation, and the wicked to receive Christ's body in the sacrament, therefore I was condemned and excommunicated; but not of the church, although the pillars of the church did it.
Chich. No; I heard say the cause of your imprisonment was, for that you exhorted the people to take the sword in one hand, and the mattock in the other.
Brad. I never meant any such thing, nor spake anything in that sort.
York. Yea, and you behaved yourself before the council so stoutly at the first, that you would defend the religion then; and therefore worthily were you prisoned.
Brad. Your grace did hear me answer my lord chancellor to that point. But put case I had been so stout as they and your grace make it: were not the laws of the realm on my side then? Wherefore unjustly was I prisoned: only that which my lord chancellor propounded, was my confession of Christ's truth against transubstantiation, and of that which the wicked do receive, as I said.
York. You deny the presence.
Brad. I do not, to the faith of the worthy receivers.
York. What is that other than to say that Christ lieth not on the altar?
Brad. My lord, I believe no such presence.
Chich. It seemeth that you have not read Chrysostome, for he proveth it.
Brad. I do remember Chrysostome saith, that Christ lieth upon the altar, as the seraphim with their tongs touch our lips with the coals of the altar in heaven, which is an hyperbolical locution, of which Chrysostome is full.
York. It is evident that you are too far gone; but let us come then to the church, out of which you are excommunicate.
Brad. I am not excommunicated out of Christ's church, my lord, although they which seem to be in the church, and of the church, have excommunicated me, as the poor blind man was, John ix.; I am sure Christ receiveth me. As I think you did well to depart from the Romish church, so I think you have done wickedly to couple yourselves to it again; for you can never prove that which you call the mother church, to be Christ's.
Chich. You were but a child when this matter began. I was a young man, and then coming from the university, I went with the world: but, I tell you, it was always against my conscience.
Brad. I was but a child; howbeit, as I told you, I think you have done evil. For you are come and have brought others to that wicked man which sitteth in the temple of God, that is, in the church: for it cannot be understood of Mahomet, or any out of the church, but of such as bear rule in the church.
York. See how you build your faith upon such places of scripture as are most obscure, to deceive yourself.
Brad. Well, my lord, though I might by fruits judge of you and others, yet will I not utterly exclude you out of the church. And if I were in your case, I would not condemn him utterly that is of my faith in the sacrament, knowing as you know, that at least 800 years after Christ, as my lord of Durham writeth, it was free to believe or not believe transubstantiation. Will you condemn any man that believeth truly the twelve articles of the faith, although in some points he believe not the definition of that which you call the church? I doubt not but that he which holdeth firmly the articles of our belief, though in other things he dissent from your definitions, yet he shall be saved.
"Yea," said both the bishops, "this is your divinity."
Brad. No, it is Paul's; who saith, that if they hold the foundation, Christ, though they build upon him straw and stubble, yet they shall be saved.
York. How you delight to lean to hard and dark places of the Scriptures.
Chich. I will show you how that Luther did excommunicate Zuinglius for this matter: (and so he read a place of Luther making for his purpose.)
Brad. My lord, what Luther writeth, as you mind it not, no more do I in this case. My faith is not built on Luther, Zuinglius, or CEcolampadius, in this point; and indeed I never read any of their works in this matter.
York. Well, you are out of communion of the church; for you would have the communion of it consist in faith.
Brad. Communion consisteth, as I said, in faith, and not in exterior ceremonies, as appeareth both by St. Paul, who would have one faith, and by Irenaeus to Victor, for the observation of Easter.
York. You think none are of the church but such as suffer persecution.
Brad. What I think, God knoweth: I pray your grace to judge me by my words, and mark what St. Paul saith--"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution," Sometimes Christ's church hath rest here; but commonly it is not so, and specially towards the end her form will be more unseemly.
York. Well, master Bradford, we lease our labour; for ye seek to put away all things which are told you to your good: your church no man can know. I pray you, whereby can we know it?
Brad. Chrysostome says, "by the Scriptures:" and thus he often saith.
York. That of Chrysostome in Opere imperfecto may be doubted of. The thing whereby the church may be known best, is succession of bishops.
Brad. No, my lord, Lyra full well writeth upon Matthew, that "the church consisteth not in men, by reason either of secular or temporal power; but in men endued with true knowledge, and confession of faith, and of verity." Hilary, writing to Auxentius, says that the church was hidden rather in caves, then did glister and shine in thrones of pre-eminence.
After they had tarried three hours with Bradford, one of their servants came and told them that my lord of Durham waited for them at master York's house. And so, after putting up their written books, and wishing poor Bradford good in words, they went their way, and he to his prison.
Within two days following came into the Compter two Spanish friars to talk with master Bradford, sent (as they said) by the earl of Derby; of whom one was the king's confessor, the other was Alphonsus, who had before written a popish book against heresies.
Alph. What is the matter whereof you were condemned? We know not.
Brad. I have been in prison almost two years: I never transgressed any of their laws for which I might justly be imprisoned; and now I am condemned, because I frankly confessed (which I repent not) my faith concerning the sacrament, when I was demanded in these two points: one, that there is no transubstantiation; the other, that the wicked do not receive Christ's body.
Alph. Let us look a little on the first. Do you not believe that Christ is present really and corporally in the form of bread?
Brad. No, I do believe that Christ is present to the faith of the worthy receiver, as there is present bread and wine to the senses and outward man: as for any such presence of including and placing Christ, I believe not, nor dare believe.
Alph. I am sure you believe Christ's natural body is circumscriptible.
And here he made much ado of the tow natures of Christ, how that the one is everywhere, and the other is in his proper place. After further talk on this subject, the friar, in a wonderful rage, spake so high that the whole house rang again; and had Bradford been anything hot, one house could not have held them. At the length he came to this point, that Bradford could not find in the Scripture baptism and the Lord's supper to bear any similitude to each other.
Brad. Be patient, and you shall see that by the Scripture I will find baptism and the Lord's supper coupled together. Paul saith, that as we are baptized into one body, so "we have drunk of one spirit," meaning the cup in the Lord's supper.
Alph. Paul hath no such words.
Brad. Yes, that he hath. Give me a Testament, and I will show you. The text is plain enough, and there are of the fathers which do so understand the place: for Chrysostome doth expound it so.
Alphonsus, who had the Testament in his hand, desirous to suppress this foil, turned the leaves till he came to the place, (1 Cor. xi.;) and there he read how that he was guilty who made no difference of the Lord's body.
Brad. Yea, but therewith he saith, "He that eateth of the bread;" calling it bread still: and that after consecration, as in 1 Cor. x., he saith, "The bread which we break," etc.
Alph. Oh, how ignorant are ye which know not that things, after their conversion, retain the same names which they had before, as Moses' rod.
Brad. Sir, there is mention made of the conversion, as well as that the same appeared to the sense; but here you cannot find it so. Find me one word how the bread is converted, and I will then say, you bring some matter that maketh for you. I do not trust my own reason, or my own interpretation; for I will bring you the fathers of the church 800 years after Christ, to confirm what I speak.
Alph. This church hath defined the contrary, and that I will prove by all the good fathers from Christ's ascension, even for 800 years at least continually, yea that the bread is turned into Christ's body. Will you believe?
Brad. Belief is God's gift, therefore I cannot promise: but I tell you I will give place: and I hope I shall believe his truth always, so good is he to me in Christ my Saviour.
Alph. I find great fault with your answer. But this I let pass, and repeat the question, if I can prove it as you said, whether you will give place?
Brad. Yes, that I will. Give me paper, pen, and ink, to write; and now suppose that I prove by the testimony of the fathers, that continually for 800 years after Christ at least, they did believe that the substance of bread doth remain in the sacrament, what will you do?
Alph. I will give place.
Brad. Then write you here that you will give place if I so prove, and I will write that I will give place if you so prove; because you are the elder you shall have the pre-eminency.
Here the friar fumed marvellously, and said, "I came not to learn at thee: are not here witnesses? be not they sufficient?" So they arose and talked no more of that matter, going away without bidding Bradford farewell. After they were gone, a priest came, and willed him not to be so obstinate.
On the 21st of March, Mr. Bradford was called down, and as soon as he entered into the hall, Dr. Weston very gently took him by the hand, and asking how he did, desired all to go out, save himself, Mr. Collier, the earl of Derby's servant, the subdean of Westminster, the keeper, Mr. Claydon, and the parson of the church near the Compter. In their presence he began to tell Mr. Bradford, that he had often intended to come unto him, being desired by the earl of Derby: and that after he perceived that he could be contented rather to speak with him than any other, he could not but come to do him all the good in his power, without intending in the least to hurt or injure him.
Bradford. Sir, when I perceived by the report of my lord's servant, that you did bear me good will, more than any other of your sort, I told him then that I could be better content and more willing to talk with you, if you should come unto me. This did I say: otherwise I desired not your coming.
West. Well, Mr. Bradford, I am mow come to talk with you: but before we begin, certain principles we must agree upon, which shall be this day's work; and the first of these is that I shall greatly desire you to put away all vainglory, and not hold any thing for the praise of the world.
Brad. Sir, St. Augustine maketh that indeed a piece of the definition of a heretic; which, if I cannot put away clean, (for I think there will be a spice of it remain in us, as long as this flesh liveth) yet I promise you by the grace of God, that I purpose not to yield to it. God, I hope, will never suffer it to bear rule in them that strive against it, and desire all the dregs of it utterly to be driven out of us.
West. I am glad to hear you say so, although, indeed, I think you do not so much esteem it as others do. And my next wish is, I would desire you to put away singularity in your judgment and opinions.
Brad. Sir, God forbid that I should stick to any singularity or private judgment in God's religion. Hitherto I have not desired it. I neither do, nor mind at any time to hold any other doctrine than is public and catholic, taking the word catholic as good men do according to God's word.
West. Very well, this is a good day's work. I hope to do you good; and therefore now I shall pray you to write me the heads of those things whereupon you stand in the sacrament, and to send them to me betwixt this and Wednesday next: until which time, yea, until I come to you again, be assured that you are without all peril of death. Of my fidelity I warrant you, therefore away with all doubts and misgivings of your safety.
Brad. Sir, I will write to you the grounds I lean upon in this matter. As for death, if it come, welcome be it; this which you require of me shall be no great hindrance to me therein.
West. You know that St. Augustine was a Manichean, yet was he converted at the length; so have I good hope of you.
Brad. Sir, because I will not flatter you, I would you should flatly know, that I am even settled in the religion wherefore I am condemned.
West. Yea, but if it be not the truth, and you see evident matter to the contrary, will you not then give place?
Brad. God forbid, but that I should always give place to the truth. And I heartily and constantly pray that he will more and more confirm me in it, as he hath done and doth.
West. Yea, but pray with a condition if you be in it already.
Brad. No, sir, I cannot pray so, because I am settled and assured of this truth.
West. Well, as the learned bishop answered St. Augustine's mother, that though he was obstinate, yet the tears of such a mother could not but win her son; so also I hope your prayers, which you offer with tears, cannot but be heard by God, though not as you would, yet as best shall please him. Do you not remember the history that I refer to?
Brad. Yea, Sir, I think it is of St. Ambrose.
West. No, that it is not. I would lay you a wager on the truth of its being St. Augustine. As you are overseen herein, so are you in other things.
Brad. Well, Sir, I will not contend with you for the name. This St. Augustine writeth in his confessions. West. The people are too much persuaded by you to withstand the queen. Send to me the heads of the doctrine of the supper, and after Wednesday I will come unto you again. Before I depart now I drink to your health.
In the mean time, when Mr. Bradford had written his reasons and arguments, and had sent them to Dr. Weston, soon after, about the 28th of March, there came to the Compter, Dr. Pendleton, and with him Mr. Collier, some time warden of Manchester, and Stephen Bech. After salutations, Dr. Pendleton began to speak to Mr. Bradford, that he was sorry for his trouble. And further, said he, after that I knew you could be content to talk with me I made the more speed, being as ready to do you good, and serve you what I can, as you would wish. To this Bradford answered, "Sir, I remember that once you were, as far as any man might judge, of the religion that I am of at present, and I remember that you have earnestly set forth the same. Gladly, therefore, would I learn of you what thing it was that moved your conscience to alter, and gladly would I see what thing it is that you have seen since which you saw not before. The cause for which I am condemned, which you say you do not know, is no other than transubstantiation, and because I deny that wicked men do receive Christ's body: wherein I would desire you to shew me what reasons, which before you knew not, did move your conscience now to alter. For once, as I said, you were as I am in religion."
Dr. Pendleton, half amazed, began to excuse himself, as though he had not fully denied transubstantiation, although he confessed, that the word was not in scripture. He then made an endless tale of the thing that moved him to alter: but said he would gather all the places which moved him and send him them. And here he desired Mr. Bradford that he might have a copy of that which he had sent to Dr. Weston; which Bradford promised him, and Pendleton soon after went his way.
In the afternoon came Dr. Weston to Bradford; and, after gentle salutations, he desired every man to depart. After that he had thanked Bradford for his writing to him, he showed the same writing which Bradford had sent him, which contained certain reasons against transubstantiation which he had carefully collected from the fathers and the holy scriptures.
"That which is former," saith Tertullian, "is true; that which is later, false. But the doctrine of transubstantiation is a late doctrine, for it was not defined generally before the council of Lateran, about 1215 years after Christ's coming, under Pope Innocent, the third of that name. Before that time it was free for all men to believe, or not believe it, as the bishop of Durham doth witness in his book of the presence of Christ in his supper, lately published. Therefore the doctrine of transubstantiation is false.
"The words of Christ's supper be figurative; the circumstances of the scriptures, the analogy or proportion of the sacraments, and the opinions of all the holy fathers, which were and wrote for the space of 1000 years after Christ's ascension, do teach this: whereupon it follows, that there is no transubstantiation.
"The Lord gave to his disciples bread, and called it his body; the scriptures do witness. For he gave that and called it his body, which he took in his hand, whereon he gave thanks; which also he brake, and gave to his disciples, that is to say, bread; as the fathers Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, Epiphanius, Augustine, and all the residue which are of antiquity, do affirm: but inasmuch as the substance of bread and wine is another thing than the substance of the body and blood of Christ, it plainly appeareth that there is no transubstantiation.
"The bread is no more transubstantiate than the wine; but that the wine is not transubstantiate, St. Matthew and St. Mark reach us: for they witness that Christ said he would drink no more of the fruit of the vine, which was not blood but wine: and therefore it follows, that there is no transubstantiation. Chrysostom upon St. Matthew, and Cyprian do affirm this reason.
"The bread in the Lord's supper is not Christ's natural body, but it is his mystical body: for the same Spirit that spake of it, This is my body, said also, For we being many are one bread and one body. But now it is not the mystical body by transubstantiation, and therefore it cannot be his natural body by transubstantiation.
"The words spoken over the cup in St. Luke and St. Paul are not so mighty and effectual as to transubstantiate it: for then the cup, or that which is in it, should be transubstantiated into the New Testament: therefore the words spoken over the bread, are not so mighty as to make transubstantiation.
"The doctrine which agreeth with those churches which be apostolical mother churches, is to be counted for truth, because it holdeth that which these churches received of the apostles, the apostles received of Christ, and Christ received of God. But it is manifest that the doctrine taught at present by the church of Rome, concerning transubstantiation, doth not agree with the apostolic and mother churches of Greece, of Corinth, of Philippi, Colossia, Thessalonica, and Ephesus, which never taught transubstantiation; yea, it agreeth not with the doctrine of the church of Rome, as it was taught in times past."
After considerable discussion on the preceding, Bradford told Weston that he was still even as he was at the first: and till he should see matter to teach his conscience the contrary, he said he must needs so continue. And so master doctor with most gentle words took his leave for three days. On the 5th of April, Dr. Weston came again to the Compter; and after much talk he left Bradford, saying, "If I can do you good, I will: hurt you I will not. I am no prince, and therefore cannot promise you life, except you will submit yourself to the definition of the church." Now after his departing came the keeper, master Claydon, and Stephen Bech; and they were very hot with Bradford, and spake with him in such sort as utter enemies, notwithstanding the friendship they both had hitherto pretended. God be with us, and what matter is it who be against us?
Among divers which came to master Bradford in prison, come to dispute and confer, some to give counsel, some to take comfort, and some to visit him, there was a certain gentlewoman's servant, whose mistress had been cruelly afflicted, and miserably handled in her father's house, for not coming to the mass, and like at length to have been pursued to death, had not the Lord delivered her from her father's house. The servant of this gentlewoman coming to master Bradford, and taking him by the hand, said--"God be thanked for you: how do you do?"
Bradford. Well, I thank God. For as men in sailing, which be near to the shore or haven where they would be, would be nearer; even so the nearer I am to God, the nearer I would be.--Our quarrel is most just: therefore let us not be afraid. How doth your mistress now?
Servant. Well, God be praised; but she hath been sorer afflicted with her own father and mother, than ever you were with your imprisonment; and yet God hath preserved her, I trust, to his glory.
Brad. I read this day a godly history, written by Basil the Great, of a virtuous woman who was a widow, and named Juletta. She had great lands and many children, and nigh her dwelt a cormorant, who for her virtuous and pious living had great indignation against her, and of malice he took away her lands, so that she was constrained to go to law with him: and in conclusion, the matter came to trial before the judge, who demanded of this tyrant why he wrongfully withheld these lands from this woman? He made answer and said, he might so do, for the woman was disobedient to the king's proceedings: for she would in no wise worship his gods, nor offer sacrifice unto them. Then the judge hearing that, said unto her, `Woman, if this be true, thou art not only likely to lose thy land, but also thy life, unless that thou worship our gods, and do sacrifice unto them.' This good woman hearing that, stepped forth to the judge, and said--`Is there no remedy but either to worship your false gods, or else to lose my lands and life? Then farewell suit, farewell lands, farewell children, farewell friends, yea, and farewell life too: and in respect to the true honour of the everlasting God, farewell all.' And with that saying the judge committed her to prison, and afterwards she suffered most cruel death: and being brought to the place of execution, she exhorted all women to be strong and constant. For she said they were redeemed with as dear a price as men. For although they were made of the rib of the man, yet they were all of his flesh; so that also in the case and trial of their faith towards God, they ought to be as strong. And thus died she constantly not fearing death. I pray you tell your mistress this story.
John Bradford continued in this prison until the month of July, in such labours and sufferings as he always had sustained. But when the time of his death was come, he was suddenly conveyed out of the Compter, in the night season, to Newgate; and from thence he was carried the next morning to Smithfield, where he, constantly abiding in the same truth of God which before he had confessed, earnestly exhorting the people to repent and to return to Christ, and sweetly comforting the godly young man who was burnt with him, cheerfully ended his painful life, to live with Christ.
With John Bradford was burnt one John Leaf, an apprentice to Humfrey Gawdy, tallow-chandler, of the parish of Christ-Church in London, of the age of nineteen years and above, born at Kirby-Moorside, in the county of York. Upon the Friday next before Palm-Sunday he was committed to the Compter in Bread-street, by an alderman of the ward where he dwelt. Afterwards, on coming to examination before Bonner, he gave a firm and Christian testimony of his doctrine and profession, answering to such articles as were objected to him. First, as touching his belief and faith in the sacrament of the altar, he answered, that after the words of consecration, spoken by the priest over the bread and wine, there was not the very true and natural body and blood of Christ in substance; and further did hold and believe, that the said sacrament of the altar, as it is now called, used and believed in this realm of England, is idolatrous and abominable; and also said further, that he believed, that after the words of consecration spoken by the priest over the material bread and wine, there is not the self-same substance of Christ's body and blood there contained; but bread and wine as it was before: and further said that he believed, that when the priest delivereth the said material bread and wine to the communicants, he delivereth it but only material bread and wine; and the communicants do receive the same in remembrance of Christ's death and passion, and spiritually, in faith, they receive Christ's body and blood, but not under the forms of bread and wine. He also affirmed, that he believed auricular confession not to be necessary to be made unto a priest, for it is no point of soul-health; neither that the priest hath any authority given him by the Scripture to absolve and remit any sin.
Upon these his answers and testimony of his faith, he at that time being dismissed, was bid the Monday next, being the 10th of June, to appear again in the said place, there and then to hear the sentence of his condemnation. At this time the bishop, propounding the said articles again to him as before, essaying by all manner of ways to revoke him to his own trade, that is, from truth to error, notwithstanding all his persuasions, threats, and promises, found him the same man still, so planted upon the sure rock of truth, that no words nor deeds of men could remove him.
Then the bishop, after many words to and fro, at last asked him if he had been master Rogers's scholar? To whom John Leaf answered again, granting him so to be; and that he did believe in the same doctrine of the said Rogers, and in the doctrine of bishop Hooper, Cardmaker, and others of their opinion, who of late were burned for the testimony of Christ, and that he would die in that doctrine that they died for: and on the bishop moving him again to return to the unity of the church, he with great courage answered him in these words:--"My lord, you call mine opinion heresy; but it is the true light of the word of God." And again, repeating the same, he professed that he would never forsake his staid and well-grounded opinion, while the breath should be in his body. Whereupon the bishop, being too weak either to refute his sentence or to remove his constancy, proceeded consequently to read the popish sentence of cruel condemnation: whereby this godly and constant young man, being committed to the secular power of the sheriffs there present, was then adjudged, and not long after suffered with master Bradford, confirming with his death that which he had spoken and professed in his life.
It is reported of the said John Leaf, by one that was in the Compter at the same time, and saw the thing, that after his examinations before the bishop, when two bells were sent unto him in the Compter in Bread-street, the one containing a recantation, the other his confessions, to know to which of them he would put his hand, first hearing the bill of recantation read unto him, (because he could not read nor write himself,) that he refused. And when the other was read to him, which he well liked of, instead of a pen he took a pin, and so pricking his hand, sprinkled the blood upon the said bill, willing the reader thereof to show the bishop that he had sealed the same bill with his blood already.
When Bradford and Leaf came to the stake in Smithfield to be burned, master Bradford lying prostrate on the one side, and John Leaf on the other side, they lay flat on their faces, praying to themselves the space of a minute. Then one of the sheriffs said to master Bradford, "Arise, and make an end; for the press of the people is great."
At that word they both stood up; and then master Bradford took a fagot in his hand, and kissed it, and so likewise the stake. And when he had so done, he desired of the sheriffs that his servant might have his raiment. "For," said he, "I have nothing else to give him: and besides that, he is a poor man." And the sheriff said he should have it. And so forthwith master Bradford did put off his raiment, and went to the stake; and holding up his hands, and casting his countenance up towards heaven, he said thus: "O England, England, repent thee of thy sins, repent thee of thy sins! Beware of idolatry, beware of false antichrists, take heed they do not deceive you." And as he was speaking these words the sheriff bade tie his hands, if he would not be quiet. "O master sheriff," said Bradford, "I am quiet: God forgive you this, master sheriff." One of the officers which made the fire, hearing master Bradford so speaking to the sheriff said, "If you have no better learning than that, you are but a fool, and were best hold your peace." To the which words master Bradford gave no answer; but asked all the world forgiveness, and forgave all the world, and prayed the people to pray for him, and turned his head unto the young man that suffered with him, and said, "Be of good comfort, brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night:" and so spake no more words that any man did hear, but, embracing the reeds, he said, "Strait is the way, and narrow is the gate, that leadeth to eternal salvation, and few there be that find it." Thus they both ended their mortal lives, most like two lambs, without any alteration of their countenance, being void of all fear, hoping to obtain the price of the game they had long run at; to the which I beseech Almighty God happily to conduct us, through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
This godly Bradford and heavenly martyr, during his imprisonment wrote sundry comfortable treatises, and many godly letters: some to the city of London, Cambridge, Walden, Lancashire, and Cheshire, and divers to his private friends. By which letters it appears how this godly man occupied his time in prison, what special zeal he bare to Christ's church, how earnestly he admonished all men, how tenderly he comforted the heavy-hearted and how faithfully he confirmed those whom he had taught. The first letter(from which the following is an extract) was addressed to his mother.
"I am at this present in prison, (sure enough for starting,) to confirm that I have preached unto you: as I am ready, I thank God, with my life and blood to seal the same, if God vouchsafe me worthy of that honour. For, good mother and brethren, it is a most special benefit of God, to suffer for his name's sake and gospel, as now I do: I heartily thank God for it, and am sure that with him I shall be partaker of his glory; as Paul saith, `If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.' Therefore be not faint-hearted; but rather rejoice, at the least for my sake, which now am in the right and high way to heaven: for by many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of heaven. Now will God make known his children. When the wind doth not blow, then cannot a man know the wheat from the chaff; but when the blast cometh, then flieth away the chaff, but the wheat remaineth, and is so far from being hurt, that by the wind it is more cleansed from the chaff, and known to be wheat. God, when it is cast into the fire, is more precious; so are God's children by the cross of affliction.
"Fear God, stick to his word, though all the world swerve from it. Die you must once, and when or how you cannot tell. Die, therefore, with Christ; suffer for serving him truly and after his word; for sure may we be, that of all deaths it is most to be desired to die for God's sake. This is the most safe kind of dying: we cannot doubt but that we shall go to heaven, if we die for his name's sake. And that you shall die for his name's sake, God's word will warrant you, if you stick to that which God by me hath taught you. You shall see that I speak as I think: for, by God's grace, I will drink before you of this cup, if I be put to it."
The second letter was addressed "to all that profess the gospel and true doctrine of Christ in the city of London." The following is an extract:
"Cast your care on the Lord, knowing he careth for you. Depend on the providence of God, not only when you have means to help you, but when you have no means, yea, when all means are against you. Give him this honour, which of all other things he requireth at your hands--to become his children through belief in Christ his blessed Son. When you fall he will put his hand beneath you. Before you call he heareth you. Out of all evil he will finally deliver you, and bring you to his eternal joy. I would gladly have given here my body to be burned for the confirmation of the true doctrine I have taught unto you. But that my country must have; therefore I pray you take in good part this signification of my good will towards all of you. Impute the want herein to time and trouble. Pardon my mine offensive and negligent behaviour when I was amongst you. With me repent and labour to amend. Continue in the truth which I have truly taught unto you, by preaching in all places where I have come; God's name, therefore, be praised. Confess Christ when you be called, whatsoever cometh therefrom, and the God of peace be with us all, Amen."
The third letter, addressed to the University of Cambridge, we insert at full length. It is an admirable specimen of faithful remonstrance and reasoning.
"To all that love the Lord Jesus and his true doctrine, being in the university and town of Cambridge, John Bradford, a most unworthy servant of the Lord, now not only imprisoned, but also condemned for the same doctrine, wisheth grace, peace, and mercy, with increase of all godliness from God the Father of all mercy, through the bloody passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ, by the lively working of the Holy Spirit for ever, Amen.
"Although I look hourly when I should be had to the stake, and although the charge over me is great and strict, yet having by the providence of God secretly pen and ink, I could not but signify unto you my solicitude which I have for all of you in the Lord, though not as I would, yet as I may. You have often and openly heard the truth disputed and preached, that it is needless to do any more but only to put you in remembrance of the same; but hitherto you have not heard it confirmed, and as it were sealed up, as now you do and shall hear by me, that is, by my death and burning. For albeit I have deserved--through my uncleanness, hypocrisy, avarice, vainglory, idleness, unthankfulness, and carnality, whereof I accuse myself, to my confusion before the world, that before God through Christ I might, as my assured hope is I shall, find mercy--eternal death and hell fire, much more than this affliction and fire prepared for me: yet my dearly beloved, it is not these, or any of these things, for which the prelates do persecute me, but God's verity and truth. Yea, even Christ himself is the only cause for which I am now condemned, and shall be burned as a heretic, because I will not grant the antichrist of Rome to be Christ's vicar general and supreme head of his church here, and every where upon earth, by God's ordinance; and because I will not grant such corporeal, real, and carnal presence of Christ's body and blood in the sacrament, as doth transubstantiate the substance of bread and wine, and is received by the wicked. Also I am excommunicated and accounted as a dead member of Christ's church, as a rotten branch, and therefore shall be cast into the fire.
"Therefore you ought heartily to rejoice with me, and to give thanks for me, that God the eternal Father hath vouchsafed our mother to bring up any child in whom it would please him to magnify his holy name as he doth, and I hope for his mercy and truth's sake, will do in me and by me. Oh, what such benefit upon earth can it be, as that I who deserved death by reason of my sins, should be delivered to a demonstration, a testification, and confirmation of God's verity and truth? Thou, my mother the university, hast not only had the truth of God's word plainly manifested unto thee by reading, disputing, and preaching publicly and privately; but now to make thee altogether excuseless, and as it were, almost to sin against the Holy Ghost, if thou put to thy helping hand with the Romish rout to suppress the verity, thou hast my life and blood as a seal to confirm thee, if thou wilt be confirmed: else to confound thee, and to bear witness against thee, if thou wilt take part with the prelates and clergy, which now fill up the measure of their fathers who slew the prophets and apostles, that all the righteous blood from Able to Bradford, shed upon earth, may be required at their hands.
"Of this therefore I thought good before my death, as time and liberty would suffer me, to admonish thee, good mother, and my sister the town, that you would call to mind from whence you are fallen, and study to do the first works. You know these matters of the Romish supremacy, and the antichristian transubstantiation, whereby Christ's supper is overthrown, his priesthood evacuated, his sacrifice frustrated, the ministry of his word unplaced, repentance repelled, faith fainted, piety extinguished, the mass maintained, idolatry supported, and all impiety cherished: you know, I say, that these opinions are not only beside God's word, but even directly against whom you cannot prevail.
"Therefore for the tender mercy of Christ, in his bowels and blood I beseech you to take Christ's eye-salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see what you do, and have done, in admitting, as I hear you have admitted, yea, alas! authorized, the Romish rottenness which once you utterly expelled. O be not, `The dog returned to his own vomit; the sow that was washed returned to her wallowing in the mire.' `Beware, lest Satan enter in with seven other spirits, and then the last shall be worse than the first.' `It had been better ye had never known the truth, than after knowledge to run from it.' Ah, woe to this world and the things therein, which hath now so wrought with you. Oh that ever the dirt of the devil should daub up the eye of the realm! for thou, O mother, art as the eye of the realm. If thou be light and shine, all the body shall fare the better: but if thy light be darkness, alas, how great will the darkness be! What is man, whose breath is in his nostrils, that thou shouldst thus be afraid of him!
"Oh what is honour and life here! Bubbles. What is glory in this world, but shame! Why art thou afraid to carry Christ's cross? Wilt thou come into his kingdom, and not drink of his cup? Dost thou not know Rome to be Babylon? Dost thou not know that as the old Babylon had the children of Judah in captivity, so hath this Rome the true Judah, that is, the confessors of Christ? Dost thou not know, that as destruction happened unto it, so shall it do unto this? And thinkest thou that God will not deliver his peopled now when the time is come, as he did then? Hath not God commanded his people to come out from her? Hast thou forgotten the woe that Christ threateneth to offence-givers? Wilt thou not remember, that it were better that a mill-stone were hanged about thy neck and thou thrown into the sea, than that thou shouldst offend the little ones?
"And alas, how hast thou offended! Yea, and how dost thou still offend! Wilt thou consider things according to the outward shew? Was not the synagogue more seemly and like to be the true church, than the simple flock of Christ's disciples? Hath not the whore of Babylon more costly array, and rich apparel, externally to set forth herself, than the homely housewife of Christ? Where is the beauty of the king's daughter, the church of Christ? Without or within? Doth not David say, within? O remember that as they are happy which are not offended at Christ, so are they happy which are not offended at his poor church. Can the pope and his prelates mean honestly, which make so much of the wife, and so little of the husband? The church they magnify, but Christ they contemn. If this church were an honest woman, (that is, Christ's wife) except they would make much of her husband, Christ and his word, she would not be made much of by them.
"When Christ and his apostles were upon the earth, who was most like to be the true church, they or the prelates, bishops and synagogue? If a man should have followed custom, unity, antiquity, or the greater part, should not Christ and his company have been cast out of doors? therefore Christ saith, `Search the scriptures.' Good mother, shall the servant be above his master? Shall we look for better entertainment at the hands of the world, than Christ and his dear disciples found? In Noah's time who was taken for the church, poor Noah and his family, or all the others that were destroyed by the flood? Who was taken for God's church in Sodom, righteous Lot, or the others? And doth not Christ say, `As it was then, so shall it go now towards the coming of the Son of man?' What meaneth Christ when he saith, iniquity shall have the upper hand? Doth not he likewise say, that charity shall wax cold? And we plainly see the greatest scarcity of it in those, who would now be taken for Christ's true catholic church. All that fear God in this realm can tell more of this than I can write.
"Therefore, dear mother, receive some admonition of one of thy poor children, now going to be burnt to ashes for the testimony of Jesus. Come again to God's truth; come out of Babylon; confess Christ and his true doctrine; repent of what is past, make amends by declaring thy repentance by the fruits. Remember the reading and preaching of God's prophet, the true preacher, Martin Bucer. Call to mind the threatenings of God against impenitent sinners. Let the exile of Leaver, Pilkington, Grindal, Haddon, Horn, Scory, Ponet, and others, awake and strengthen thee. Let the imprisonment of thy dear sons, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, move thee. Consider the martyrdom of thy intimate friends, Rogers, Saunders, and Taylor. And now cast not away my poor admonition, that am now going to be burnt and to receive the like crown of glory with my fellows. Take to heart God's calling by us. Be not as Pharaoh was, that it may not happen unto thee as it did unto him. What is that? Hardness of heart. And what then? Destruction eternally both of body and soul. Ah, therefore, good mother, awake, awake, repent, repent, and make haste to turn to the Lord. For otherwise it shall be more easy for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for thee. O harden not your hearts; O stop not your ears to-day in hearing God's voice, though it be by a most unworthy messenger. O fear the Lord, for his anger is begun to kindle. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree.
"You know I prophesied truly before the sweating sickness came, what would come, if you repented not your carnal preaching. And now I tell you before I depart hence, that the ears of men shall tingle to hear the vengeance of God that will fall upon you all, both town and university, if you repent not, if you leave not your idolatry, if you turn not speedily to the Lord, if you still be ashamed of Christ's truth which you know.
"O, Perne, repent; O, Thompson, repent! O, doctors, bachelors, and masters, repent! O, mayor, aldermen, and town-dwellers, repent, repent, repent, that you may escape the approaching vengeance of the Lord! Rend your hearts and make haste to come unto the Lord. Let us all say, `We have sinned, we have done wickedly, we have not hearkened to thy voice, O Lord. Deal not with us after our deserts, but be merciful unto our iniquities, for they are great. O pardon our offences. In thine anger remember thy mercy. Turn us unto thee, O Lord God of hosts, for the glory of thy name's sake. Spare us and be merciful unto us. Let not the wicked people say, Where is now their God? O for thine own sake, for thy name's sake, deal mercifully with us. Turn thyself unto us, and us unto thee, and we shall praise thy name for ever.'
"If in this sort, my dearly beloved, in heart and mouth we come unto our Father, and prostrate ourselves before the throne of his grace, then surely we shall find mercy. Then shall the Lord look tenderly upon us, for his mercy's sake in Christ; then shall we hear him speak peace unto his people. For he is gracious and merciful, of great pity and compassion: he cannot be chiding for ever: his anger cannot last long to the penitent. Though we weep in the morning, yet at night we shall have our sorrow to cease. For he is merciful, and hath no pleasure in the death of a sinner: he would rather have him turn from his wickedness and live.
"Oh turn ye now and repent, yet once again, I humbly beseech you, and then the kingdom of heaven shall draw nigh. The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor is the heart of man able to conceive the joys prepared for us, if we repent, amend our lives, and heartily turn to the Lord. But if you repent not, but be as ye are, and go forwards with the wicked, following the fashion of the world, the Lord will lead you on with wicked doers, you shall perish in your wickedness, your blood will be upon your own heads, your parts shall be with hypocrites, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; you shall be cast from the face of the Lord for ever and ever; eternal shame, sorrow, woe, and misery, shall be both in body and soul to you world without end. Oh, therefore, right dear to me in the Lord, turn you, turn you, repent you, repent you, amend, amend your lives, depart from evil, do good, follow peace, and pursue it. Come out from Babylon, cast off the works of darkness, put on Christ, confess his truth, be not ashamed of his gospel, prepare yourselves for the cross, drink of God's cup before it come to the dregs, and then shall I with you and for you, rejoice in the day of judgment, which is at hand; and therefore prepare yourselves thereto, I heartily beseech you. And thus I take my farewell for ever of you in this present life, mine own dear hearts in the Lord. The Lord of mercy be with us all, and give us a joyful and sure meeting in his kingdom, Amen.
"Your own in the Lord for ever,
Mr. Bradford's fourth letter was addressed to the people of Lancashire and Cheshire, among whom he had laboured with fidelity and success. The fifth he wrote to the inhabitants of Walden in Essex, now generally called Saffron Walden, where he had many friends, whom he earnestly exhorted to be "steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." The sixth he calls a letter to his loving brethren, their wives, and families; but the initials only of those brethren appear. The seventh he addressed to a friend named Erkinalde Rawlins, and this contains a passage not to be omitted. "You have cause to rejoice for those days because they are days of trial, wherein you yourselves and all true believers shall know that you belong not unto the world, but are the favourites and friends of God. Before these days came, Lord God! how many thought themselves in God's bosom, and so were taken and would be taken by the world. But now we see whose they are. For whom we obey his servants we be. If we obey the world, then are we the world's, but if we obey God then are we God's; which thing these days have declared to all of us better than we ever knew it before."
The eighth letter of this devoted saint was addressed to a suffering lady of the reformed faith, named Warcup; to whom the thirty-fifth letter was also inscribed, and to whose husband, with herself and some mutual friends of the name of Wilkinson, he addressed the thirteenth in the collection. From the thirty-fifth an extract will appear in due order; at present we must return to the ninth, inscribed to his fellow sufferer Mr. Laurence Saunders, who was then in the Marshalsea prison, and containing allusions to Dr. Taylor and Mr. Philpot, which we have no means at hand of explaining. In conclusion he says, "God, our Father and gracious Lord, make perfect the good work he hath begun in us. He will do it, my brother, my dear brother, whom I have in my inward bowels to live and die with." The tenth letter is also addressed to Lawrence Saunders, and contains little else than a repetition of the preceding.
The eleventh letter is addressed
"to my dear Fathers, Dr. Cranmer, Dr. Ridley, and Mr. Latimer;" and is here given almost entire:
The fourteenth letter was written to Sir James Hales, then a prisoner, like his estimable correspondent for the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. Mr. Bradford was, as he says, "unknown to him both by face and name;" yet he knew him to suffer for righteousness' sake, and therefore would not content himself with calling daily to God in his behalf. His style of writing in this letter is somewhat chastened, yet characteristic, as the following extract will shew. "Look, good master Hales, on your vocation: not many judges, not many knights, not many landed and rich men, hath God chose to suffer for his sake as he hath done you. Certainly, I dare say, you think not so of yourself, as though God were bound to prefer you, or had need of you; but rather attribute this as all things to the free mercy of God in Christ. Being a wise man you do judge of things wisely; that is concerning this your cross, you judge of it not after the world, which is the great master of error; nor after the judgment of the world's wisdom, which is foolishness to faith; nor after the present sense, to which it seemeth not to be joyous but grievous; but after the word of God, which tells you that the cross is the path way to glory, felicity, and heaven."
In the fifteenth letter the writer conjures Dr. Hill, a protestant physician of celebrity in that day, to abide in the true faith for which he gad begun to suffer, and to fear God as the best preservative to the fear of man. In the sixteenth, he entreats a pious gentlewoman, whose initials only he gives us, to make God's glory shine in all her words and works. The eighteenth is addressed to a faithful and pious woman, more exposed to inward than outward distress, and to whom, in a long and excellent letter, he thus writes, "Do you not hunger and thirst after righteousness? and I pray you, saith not he who cannot lie, that happy are such? How should God wipe away the tears from your eyes in heaven, if now on earth you shed no tears? How could heaven be a place of rest, if on earth you find it? How could you desire to be at home, if in your journey you find no difficulty, distress, or grief? How could you be made like unto Christ in joy, if in sorrow you never sobbed with him? If you will sit at Christ's table in his kingdom, you must first abide with him in his temptations. If you will drink of his cup of glory, despise not his cup of ignominy. If you were a market sheep, you should go in more fat and grassy pasture. If you were for the fair, you should be stall fed, and want no wealth; but because you are God's own occupying, therefore you must pasture on the bleak and barren heath, abiding the storms and tempests that he may send down upon that and upon you."
Most of the martyrs of this melancholy reign were more or less comforted, and some of them wholly supported as to their mortal frame, by the noble lady Vane. Several of the letters of Mr. Philpot and Mr. Trehern were addressed to her. She was also one of good Mr. Bradford's correspondents, and to her the nineteenth and twentieth and twenty-ninth letters in this collection were inscribed. The chiefly relate to certain important and intricate queries which she had in writing or in conversation proposed to him; but are not of sufficient importance to merit the preference of insertion.
In the twenty-third letter he writes to some persons, whose names are not mentioned, but of whose piety he has a good opinion, while what he says implies some apprehension of their fainting in the day of final trial. In the twenty-fourth, a class of rather different persons, whose integrity he suspects, and of consequence stands in great doubt of their stability even in an outward profession of just sentiments, are faithfully admonished in the following terms. "You promised to fight under Christ's standard. You learned his cross before you learned your alphabet. Go forward then, and pay your vows to the Lord. Fight like men, and valiant men too under the standard of Christ. Take up the cross and follow your Master unto death--as your brethren Hooper, Rogers, Taylor, and Saunders, have already done; and as now your brethren Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Farrar, and Bradford, are ready to do."
The twenty-fifth letter was addressed to his "good brother" John Careless, then a prisoner in the King's Bench. It was in answer to one of which he says--"I never received so much consolation by any thing since I came into prison as I have by your last letter." It would appear that either Bradford had been too unmindful of this friend, or was in a state of depression when he wrote very unusual with him; for notwithstanding is the letter very brief, but almost full of misgiving and self-accusation. It concludes thus, "It is not one or two drops that maketh the stone hollow; but the perpetual dropping; so if with hearty prayer for them, and by good example gently working upon them, we may at length see the operation of God, we shall in the end rejoice. I beseech God to make perfect all the good he hath begun in us all."
Letters the twenty-sixth and seventh are addressed to Mr. John Hall and his wife, then prisoners in Newgate, and contain, with nothing remarkable, his usual flow of consolatory reflection and benevolent admonition and advice. The twenty-eighth is in answer to a woman who desired to know of him if she might be present at the popish matins, provided she were absent from the mass? His reasons against her proposals are--that they were idolatrous, and therefore sinful--and that her example might greatly influence and injure others, for whom she would be called to judgment.
The thirtieth letter was addressed to the sheriff of Coventry, Mr. Richard Hopkins, who to avoid danger and preserve unmolested the observance of the true faith and worship, fled with his family to Basle, where he remained till Mary's death. In the thirty-second letter there is this admirable passage, in answer to the inquiry of a friend, how he was to reply to his adversaries? "When you shall come before the magistrates, to give a reason for the hope that is in you, do it with all reverence and simplicity: and if you are afraid of their power and cruelty, set before you the example of the good father Moses; for he set the invisible God before the eyes of his faith, and with them he looked upon his glorious majesty and power, as with the eyes of his body he saw Pharaoh and all his frightful terrors. So do you, my dearly beloved, let your inward eyes give light unto you, that while you are before the magistrates, so and much more are you and they present before the face of God, who will give you such wisdom and strength as your enemies will be amazed at."
The thirty-fourth is a remarkably serious and spiritual letter addressed to Mr. George Eaton. In the thirty-sixth he strongly urges a young lady, persecuted by her parents for not going to mass, to be steadfast in the true faith, and to reject with firmness and perseverance the papal system. The thirty-seventh is a letter of warm and honest thanks to all the friends from whom he had received comfort and relief during his long imprisonment. The good man's hour was now drawing near, when he fully apprehended, or rather anticipated, that he should pass through the fire of earth to the felicity of heaven. Letters forty-one and forty-two are to his mother, intimating this expectation as likely soon to be fulfilled. The latter is his final farewell to his venerable parent, and thus expresses his perfect confidence and calmness in the almost immediate view of death. "My most dear mother, I heartily pray and beseech you to be thankful for me to God, who now taketh me unto himself. I die not as a criminal, but as a witness of Christ, the truth of whose gospel I have hitherto confessed, and now am willing to confirm by fire. I have nothing to give you, or to leave behind me for you; only I pray God my Father, for Christ's sake, to bless you and to keep you from all evil. May he make you patient and thankful that he will take the fruit of your womb to witness his truth; wherein I confess to the whole world that I die, and depart this life in hope of a much better, which I look for at the hands of God my Father, through the merits of his Son Jesus Christ. Thus, my dear mother, I take my last farewell of you in this life, beseeching the Almighty and eternal Father by Christ, to grant us to meet in the life to come, where we shall give him continual thanks and praise for ever and ever, Amen." The forty-third letter, the last but one in the collection, was addressed to the queen, her council, and the whole parliament. Let those who but imagine it possible that John Bradford should have made these high powers his resort at last in hope of forgiveness, or, still more, should have attempted to conciliate them by flattery, or propitiate them by compromise and recantation, read the letter, and confess their suspicion, or fear, or whatever else it might be, unfavourable to his pre-eminent reputation for courage and constancy, to have been both premature itself and an offense against him.
"In most humble wise complaineth unto your majesty and honours, a poor subject, persecuted for the confession of Christ's verity; which verity deserveth at your hands to be maintained and defended, as the thing by which you reign, and have your honours and authorities. Although we that be professors, and, through the grace of God, the constant confessors of the same, are, as it were, the out-sweepings of the world; yet I say, the verity itself is a thing not unworthy for your ears to hear, for your eyes to see, and for your hands to handle, help, and succour as the Lord hath made you able, and placed you where you are for the same purpose. Your highness and honours ought to know, that there is no innocency in words or deeds, where it is enough and sufficient only to accuse. It behoveth kings, queens, and all that be in authority, to know, that in the administration of their kingdoms they are God's ministers. It behoveth them to know, that they are not kings, but plain tyrants, who reign not to this end, that they may serve and set forth God's glory after true knowledge; and therefore it is required of them that they would be wise, and suffer themselves to kiss their Sovereign, lest they perish; as all those potentates, with their principalities and dominions, cannot long prosper, but perish indeed, if they and their kingdoms be not ruled with the scepter of God, that is, with his word; which whoso honoureth not, honoureth not God; and they that honour not the Lord, the Lord will not honour them, but bring them into contempt, and at length take his own cause, which he hath chiefly committed to them to care for, into his own hands, and so overthrow them, and set up his own truth gloriously: the people also perishing with the princes, where the word of prophecy is wanting, much more is suppressed, as it is now in this realm of England, over which the eyes of the Lord are set to destroy it, your highness and all your honours, if in time you look not better to your office and duties herein, and not suffer yourselves to be slaves and hangmen to antichrist and his prelates, who have already brought your highness and honours in the mind to let Barabbas loose, and to hang up Christ. This by the grace and help of God I shall make apparent, if first it would please your excellent majesty, and all your honours, to take to heart God's doctrine, which rather through the malice of the pharisees, I mean the bishops and prelates, than your consciences, is oppressed; and not for our contemptible and execrable state in the world to pass the less of it. For this doctrine is higher, and of more honour and majesty than all the whole world. It standeth invincible above all power, being not our doctrine, but the doctrine of the ever-living God, and of his Christ, whom the Father hath ordained king, to have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the end of the world. And truly so he doth and will reign, that he will shake all the earth with his iron and brazen power, with his golden and silver brightness, only by the rod of his mouth, to shivers, in such a manner as though they were pots of clay, according to what the prophets write of the magnificence of his kingdom. And thus much for the doctrine, and your duties to hearken, to propagate, and defend the same.
"But now will our adversaries mainly cry out against us, because no man be admitted once to speak against them, that we pretend falsely the doctrine and word of God, calling us the most wicked contemners of it, and heretics, schismatics, traitors, &c. All which their sayings, how malicious and false they are, though I might refer to that which is written by those men whose works they have condemned, and all that retain any of them, publicly by proclamation; yet here will I occasion your majesty and honours by this my writing, to see that it is far otherwise than they report of us. God our Father, for his holy name's sake, direct my pen to be his instrument to put into your eyes, ears, and hearts, that which most may make to his glory, in the safeguard of your souls and bodies, and preservation of the whole realm. Amen."
In the month of May before, mention was made of certain letters directed from the king and queen to Bonner. Besides which letters, certain others had been directed a little before from the council to the said bishop; by occasion of which letters. Bonner not long after caused a certain declaration to be made unto the people at Paul's cross, by Dr. Chedsey, to purge himself from the general suspicion of cruelty, which was spread abroad of him among the common people. The words of which declaration were in part as follow: "And whereas by these letters, coming from the king's and queen's majesties, it appeareth that their majesties do charge my lord bishop of London, and the rest of the bishops, with remissness and negligence in instructing the people infected with heresy, if they will be taught, and in punishing them if they will be obstinate and wilful, ye shall understand that my lord bishop of London, for his part, offereth himself ready to do therein his duty to the uttermost:--and that he will travail and take pains with all that be of his jurisdiction for their amendment; and sorry he is that any are in prison for any such matter. And he willed me to tell you, that he is not so cruel or hasty to send men to prison as some be--slanderous and wilful to do naught, and lay their faults on other men's shoulders."