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Foxe's Book of Martyrs

The Story of Seven Martyrs Suffering Together at London -- Five Other Martyrs Burned at Canterbury.

The catholic prelates of the pope's band, being as yet not satisfied with this their one year's murdering of the members of Christ's church, continued still this next year also in no less cruelty. Wherefore, as the first-fruits thereof, about the 27th of January, 1556, were burned in Smithfield these seven persons hereafter following, to wit: Thomas Whittle, priest; Bartlet Green, gentleman; John Tudson, artificer; John Went, artificer; Thomas Browne; Isabel Foster; and Joan Warne, alias Lashford. The articles exhibited against them, and their answers, are here briefly set forth:--

(1.) That they believed that there is in earth a catholic church, in the which the faith and religion of Christ is truly professed. (2.) That there were seven sacraments, instituted and ordained by God, and by the consent of the holy church allowed and received. (3.) That they were in times past baptized in the faith of the said catholic church. (4.) That coming to the age of fourteen years, and so to the age of discretion, they did not depart from the said profession and faith. (5.) That, notwithstanding the premises, they had of late spoken against the mass, the sacrament of the altar, and the unity of the church, maligning the authority of the see of Rome. (6.) That they had refused, and did still refuse, to be reconciled to the said see of Rome. (7.) That they had refused to come to their parish church to hear mass, and to receive the said sacrament: but had openly said that in the sacrament of the altar there is not the very body and blood of our Saviour Christ; that the mass was idolatry and abomination; and that in the sacrament there was none other substance but only material bread and wine, which were tokens of Christ's body and blood. (8.) That being convented before certain judges, and being found obstinate, wilful, and heady, they were sent to be examined by the said Bonner. (9.) That all and singular the premises have been and be true and manifest, and that they were of the jurisdiction of Edmund bishop of London.

To the first article they all agreed. To the second they said, they acknowledged but two sacraments--baptism and the supper of the Lord. The third they confessed to be true, that they were baptized in the faith of Christ. To the fourth they agreed: John Went, John Tudson, and Isabel Foster adding, that when they came to years of mature discretion they began to mislike the ministration of the sacrament of the altar, and the ceremonies of the church. Concerning the fifth, they answered the same to be true, according to the contents thereof: Thomas Whittle, Joan Lashford, and Bartlet Green adding, that they had not swerved from the catholic faith, but only from the church of Rome. The sixth they confessed to be true. To the seventh, they confessed the contents thereof to be true, giving the reason and cause of their so doing. Concerning the eighth, they granted the same to be so. And to the ninth, that as they believed the premises before by them confessed to be true, so they denied not the same to be manifest.--Having briefly expressed their articles and answers, it remaineth more fully to discourse the stories of the seven foresaid martyrs as follow. Mention has been made, in Mr. Philpot's story, of a married priest, whom he found in bishop Bonner's coal house at his first going thither, in heaviness of mind and great sorrow, for recanting the doctrine which he had taught in king Edward's days. This was Thomas Whittle a curate of Essex. After he had been expelled from the place in Essex where he served, he went abroad, where he might, now here and there, as occasion offered, preach the gospel of Christ. At length being apprehended by one Edmund Alablaster, in hope of reward and promotion, which he miserably gaped after, he was brought first as prisoner before the bishop of Winchester, who was lately fallen sick of his disease, whereof not long after he died. But the apprehender for this proffered service was highly checked by the bishop, who asked if there were no man unto whom he might bring such rascals, but to him? The greedy cormorant being thus defeated of his desired prey, yet thinking to seek and to hunt further, carried his prisoner to the bishop of London, with whom what ill-usage this Whittle had, and how he was by the bishop beaten and buffetted about the face, by this his own narration, in a letter sent to his friend, manifestly may appear.

"Upon Thursday, the tenth of January, the bishop of London sent for me out of the porter's lodge, where I had been all night, lying on the earth, on a little low bed, where I had as painful a night of sickness as ever I endured. When I came before him, he talked with me upon many things of the sacrament so grossly, as is not worthy to be rehearsed. Amongst other things, he asked me, if I would have come to mass that morning if he had sent for me. I answered, that I would have come to him at his commandment, but to his mass I had small affection. At which answer he was sore displeased, and said, I should be fed with bread and water. And as I followed him through the great hall, he turned back, and beat me with his fist, first on the one cheek, and then on the other, and the sign of my beating did many days appear. And then he led me to a little salt-house, where I had neither straw nor bed, but lay two nights on a table, and slept soundly.

"On the Friday after, I was brought to my lord, when he gave me many fair words, and said he would be good to me. And so he going to Fulham committed me to Dr. Harpsfield, that he and I that afternoon should commune together, and draw out certain articles, whereunto, if I would subscribe, I should be dismissed. But Dr. Harpsfield sent not for me till night, and then persuaded me very much to forsake my opinions. I answered, I held nothing but the truth, and therefore I could not so lightly turn therefrom. So I thought I should at that time have had no more ado: but he had made a certain bill, which the register pulled out of his bosom and read. The bill indeed was very easily made, and therefore more dangerous; for the effect thereof was to detest all errors and heresies against the sacrament of the altar, and other sacraments, and to believe the faith of the catholic church, and live accordingly.

"To this bill I did set my hand, being much desired and counselled so to do; and the flesh being always desirous to have liberty, I considered not thoroughly the inconvenience that might come therefrom: speedy respite I desired to have and very earnestly they desired me to subscribe. But when I had done so, I had little joy thereof; for by and by my mind and conscience told me by God's word that I had done evil, by such a slight means to shake off the sweet cross of Christ; and yet it was not my seeking, as God knoweth, but altogether came of them. Well, the night after I had subscribed I was sore grieved, and for sorrow of conscience could not sleep. For in the deliverance of my body out of bonds, which I might have had, I could find no joy nor comfort, but still was in my conscience tormented more and more, being assured, by God's Spirit and his word, that through evil counsel and advice, I had done amiss. And both with disquietude of mind, and with my other cruel handling, I was sick; lying upon the ground when the keeper came: and I desired him to pray Dr. Harpsfield to come to me, and he did so. "And when he came, and the register with him, I told him that I was not well at ease, but that I was grieved very much in my conscience and mind because I had subscribed. I said that my conscience had so accused me, through the just judgment of God and his word, that I felt hell in my conscience, and Satan ready to devour me; and therefore I prayed Mr. Harpsfield to let me have the bill again, for I would not stand to it. So he gently commanded it to be fetched, and gave it me and suffered me to put out my name, whereof I was right glad when I had so done, although death should follow. And hereby I had experience of God's providence and mercy towards me, who trieth his people, and suffereth them to fall, but not to be lost: for in the midst of this temptation and trouble, he gave me warning of my deed, and also delivered me; his name be praised for evermore, Amen. Neither devil nor evil man, life nor death can pluck any of Christ's sheep out of his hand. Of which flock of Christ's sheep I trust undoubtedly I am one, by means of his death and blood-shedding, and shall at the last day stand at his right hand, and receive with others his blessed benediction. And now being condemned to die, my conscience and mind, I praise God were quiet in Christ, and I by his grace was very willing and content to give over this body to the death, for the testimony of his truth and pure religion, against Antichrist and all his false religion and doctrine.

"By me, Thomas Whittle, minister."

Upon the 14th day of January, Bonner, with other his fellow Bonnerlings, sitting in his consistory at the afternoon, first called forth Thomas Whittle, with whom he began in effect as followeth: "Because you be a priest, as I and other bishops here be, and did receive the order of priesthood after the right and form of the catholic church, ye shall not think but I will minister justice as well unto you as unto others." And then the said Bonner proceeded to rehearse the several charges against him, and afterward to unpriest him of all his priestly trinkets and clerkly habit. To make short, Whittle, strengthened with the grace of the Lord, stood strong and immovable in that he had affirmed. Wherefore the sentence being read, the next day following he was committed to the secular power; and so, in few days after, brought to the fire with the other six aforenamed, sealing up the testimony of his doctrine with his blood, as witness for the truth.

Next followeth in order to speak of Bartlet Green, who the next day after was likewise condemned. This Green was of a good house, and had such parents as favoured learning. After some entrance in inferior schools, he was sent to Oxford, where through his diligence he made great advances in his studies: but was, for a time, so far from feeling any interest in eternal things, that he was utterly averse to the subject. At length, by attending the lectures of Peter Martyr, then reader of the divinity-lecture, his mind was struck with the importance of religion. Having once tasted of divine grace, it became unto him as the fountain of living water that our Saviour Christ spake of to the woman of Samaria. Insomuch that when he was called by his friends from the university, and was placed in the Temple at London, there to study the common laws of the realm, he still continued, with great earnestness, to read and search the scriptures.

But such is the frailty of our corrupt nature without the special assistance of God's Holy Spirit, he sadly declined, through the continual accompanying of fellowship of such worldly youths as are commonly in that and the like places. He became by little and little a partner in their follies, as well in his apparel as also in banquetings, and other superfluous excesses; which he afterwards bewailed sorely, as appeareth by his own testimony left in a book belonging to Mr. Bartram Calthorp, one of his friends, written a little before his death. He there remarks, "Two things very much troubled me while I was in the Temple, pride and gluttony; which under the colour of glory and good-fellowship, drew me almost from God. Against both there is one remedy, by earnest prayer, and without ceasing. And forasmuch as vainglory is so subtle an adversary, that almost it woundeth deadly ere ever a man can perceive himself to be smitten, therefore we ought so much the rather by continual prayer to labour for humbleness of mind. Truly, gluttony beginneth under a charitable pretence of mutual love and society, and hath in it most uncharitableness. When we seek to refresh our bodies, that they may be more apt to serve God, and perform our duties toward our neighbours, then it stealeth in as a privy thief, and murdereth both body and soul, that now it is not apt to pray, or serve God, apt to study or labour for our neighbour. Let us therefore watch and be sober: for our adversary the devil walketh about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."

Thus we see the fatherly kindness of our most gracious and merciful God, never suffereth his children so to fall, that they lie still in security of sin, but oftentimes quickeneth them up by such means as perhaps they think least of. For the better maintenance of himself in his studies and other affairs, Green had a large exhibition of his grandfather, Dr. Bartlet, who, during the time of his imprisonment, made him large offers of great livings, if he would recant and return to the church of Rome. But his persuasions took small effect in his faithful heart. He was a man beloved of all, and so he well deserved; for he was of a meek, humble, discreet, and gentle behaviour to all; injurious to none, beneficial to many, especially to those who were of the household of faith.

The cause of Mr. Green's sufferings originated from a letter of his being intercepted. This letter was written to an exiled friend, who having in a letter to the said Green, required to have the certainty of the report spread amongst them on the other side of the seas, that the queen was dead, he had answered simply, and as the truth then was, that she was not dead; with certain questions abroad in London. This letter, with others to divers of the godly exiles, by their friends in England, being delivered to a messenger to carry over, came, by the apprehension of the bearer, into the hands of the king and queen's council; who at their leisure perused the whole number of the letters, and amongst them espied that of Mr. Green, written to his friend, Christopher Goodman; in the contents whereof they found these words--"The queen is not dead." These words were only written as a simple answer. Howbeit they seemed very heinous words, yea treason they would have made them, if the law would have suffered. Which when they could not do, they then examined the writer upon his faith in religion, but upon what points it is certainly not known. It was clear, however, that his answers displeased them; for he was committed to prison, and after being confined for some time, was at length sent to bishop Bonner.

Many other conferences and examinations they brought him to. But in the end, seeing his steadiness of faith to be such that neither their threatenings not their flattering promises could prevail against it, the bishop caused him, with the rest before mentioned, to be brought into the consistory of St. Paul's; where being set in his judgment seat, accompanied by Mr. Fecknam, then dean of the same church, and others his chaplains, after he had condemned the other six, he called for Bartlet Green, and again repeated the articles to him. After which Dr. Fecknam disputed with him upon the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, and other points. At length, impatient of longer delay, bishop Bonner demanded if he would recant and return to his Romish mother; and on his answering in the negative, he pronounced the definitive sentence against him, and then committed him to the sheriffs of London, who sent him to Newgate.

As he was going thither, there met him two gentlemen, particular friends, minding to comfort this their persecuted brother: but their hearts not being able to contain their sorrow, they wept. "Ah," said the martyr, "is this the comfort you are come to give me, in this my occasion of heaviness? Must I, who needed to have consolation ministered to me, become now a comforter to you?" And thus declaring his most quiet and peaceable mind and conscience, he cheerfully spake to them and others until he came to the prison door, into which he joyfully entered, and there remained always either in prayer, or else in some other godly meditations and exercises, unto the 27th day of January, when he, with his other above-mentioned brethren, went most cheerfully to the place of their torments, often repeating, as well by the way as also at the stake, these Latin verses following--

Christe Deus, sine te spes est mihi nulla salutis:
Te duce vera sequor, te duce falsa nego.

The third of this martyred company was Thomas Browne, a man of great firmness and courage. He was born in the parish of Histon, within the diocese of Elv, and came afterwards to London, where he dwelt in the parish of St. Bride's in Fleet-street. He was a married man aged thirty-seven, and his troubles first arose because he came not to his parish-church, for which neglect he was presented by the constable of the parish to bishop Bonner. Being brought to Fulham with the others to be examined, he was required to come into the chapel to hear mass, which he refusing to do, went into the warren, and there kneeled among the trees. For this he was greatly charged by the bishop as for a heinous matter, because he said it was done in despite and contempt of their mass. At length being produced to his last examination before the bishop, the 15th day of January, there to hear the definitive sentence against him, he was required, with many fair words and glossing promises, to revoke his doctrine. But he resisted with steadfast faith, and told the bishop he was a blood-thirsty man, saying: "You condemn me because I will not confess and believe the bread in the sacrament of the altar (as you call it) to be the body of Christ." After this Bonner read his sentence, and so committed him to the sheriffs to be burned the 27th of January.

The same day and time was also produced John Tudson, with the rest of the company, unto the like condemnation. This John Tudson was born in Ipswich, and apprenticed to George Goodyear, of St. Mary Botolph, within the diocese of London. Being complained of to Sir Richard Cholmley and Dr. Storey, he was by them sent to Bonner, and was divers times before him in examination. On his last examination, when the bishop promised, on condition of his recanting, to forgive him all his offences, he demanded wherein he had offended. Then said the bishop, "In your answers." Tudson denied this and said, I have not therein offended; and you, my lord, pretend charity, but nothing thereof appeareth in your works. Thus after a few words, the bishop pronounced against him sentence of condemnation; which being read, the martyr was committed to the secular power, and so with much patience finished his life with his fellow-sufferers.

John Went is the fifth individual of this class to whose life as well as death some reference should be made. He was born at Langham, in Essex, within the diocese of London, was of the age of twenty-seven, and was a shearman by occupation. He was first examined, as is partly mentioned before, by Dr. Storey, upon the sacrament of the altar; and because the poor man did not accord with him thoroughly in the real presence of the body and blood of Christ, Storey went him up to Bonner, who likewise, after various examinations upon the articles in the consistory, attempted the like manner of persuasions with him as he did with the others, to recant and return. To whom, in very few words, Went answered again, he would not; but that by the leave of God, he would stand firm and constant in what he had said. Whereupon being condemned by the bishop's sentence, he was committed unto the sheriffs and so brought to his martyrdom, which he with no less constancy suffered to the end, with the rest of that blessed society.

The last two of these six martyrs were of the weaker sex; but were both strong in faith, giving glory unto God. Isabel Foster was born in Greystock, in the diocese of Carlisle, and was married to John Foster, cutler, of the parish of St. Bride's, in Fleet-street, being of the age of fifty-five years. She likewise, for not coming to church, was sent to bishop Bonner, who put her in prison, and examined her sundry times, but she would never be removed from the constant confession of Christ's gospel. At length coming unto her final examination before the bishop, she was tried again whether she would yet go from her former answers? Whereunto she gave this resolute answer; that she would not go from them, by God's grace. The bishop promising both life and liberty if she would associate herself in the unity of the catholic church, she said again, that she trusted she was never out of the catholic church; and so persisting in the same, continued constant till the sentence was pronounced, when she was committed, by command of the bishop, to the secular power, and brought a few days after to the stake.

Mention has already been made of one Elizabeth Warne, who with her husband John Warne, in the beginning of queen Mary's reign, was apprehended in Bow Church-yard, for being there at a communion; and both suffered for the same, first the man in the month of May, then the wife in July after; and now the daughter, in the month of January, followed her parents in the same martyrdom. This Joan Lashford was the daughter of one Robert Lashford, cutler, and of the foresaid Elizabeth, who afterward was married to the said John Warne, upholsterer. Ministering to her mother and father-in-law in prison, suspected and known to be of the same doctrine and religion, she was sent to Bonner by Dr. Storey, and so committed to the Compter in the Poultry, where she remained five weeks; and from thence was had to Newgate, where she continued the space of certain months.

After that, remaining prisoner in Bonner's custody, and being examined, her confession was, that for above a twelvemonth before she came not to the popish mass service in the church, neither would, either to receive the sacrament of the altar or to be confessed, because her conscience would not allow her so to do; protesting against the real presence of Christ's body and blood; and denying that auricular confession or absolution, after the popish sort, was necessary; but said, that these sacraments, confessions and absolutions, and the mass, with all their other superfluous sacraments, ceremonies, and divine service, as then used in this realm of England, were most vile, and contrary to Christ's word and institution; so that they were neither at the beginning, nor shall be at the latter end. This resolute maid, feeble in constitution and tender in age, yet strong by grace in her confession and faith, stood so firm that neither the promises nor threats of the bishops could move her; and on being exhorted by the bishop to return to the catholic unity of the church, she boldly said, "If you will leave off your abomination, I will return, and otherwise I will not. Do as it pleaseth you, and I pray God that you may do that which may please him." Thus she, constantly persevering in the truth, was condemned and committed to the sheriffs, by whom she with the rest was brought to the stake, and there washed her soul in the blood of the Lamb, dying most constantly for his word and truth. And thus much concerning the life, story, and condemnation of these seven martyrs above specified.

Shortly after, in the same month, followed another like fellowship of godly martyrs at Canterbury. John Lomas of Tenterden, was detected to be of that religion the papist call heresy, and cited to appear at Canterbury, where he was examined of the first article, whether he believed the catholic church or not? he answered, that he believed so much as was contained in God's book, and no more. Then being assigned to appear again under the pain of the law the following Wednesday, which was the 17th day of January, he was examined whether he would be confessed by a priest or not; he said, that he found it not written that he should be confessed to any priest in God's book, neither would he be confessed, unless he were accused by some man of sin. Again, being examined whether he believed the body of Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar really under the forms of bread and wine after the consecration, he answered, that he believed no reality of Christ's body to be in the sacrament; neither found he it written, that he is there under form, but he believed so much as was written. Being then demanded whether he believed that there was a catholic church or no, and whether he would be content to be a member of the same, he answered, that he believed so much as was written in God's book, and other answer than this he refused to give. Whereupon the sentence was given and read against him on the 18th of January, and he was committed to the secular power, and afterwards constantly suffered for the conscience of a true faith, with the four women here following.

Agnes Snoth comes next in this record, and first of the female majority of this company. She was a widow, of the parish of Smarden, and was likewise cited and accused for her faith. She was divers times examined, and being compelled to answer to such articles and interrogatories as should be administered unto her, she first denied to be confessed to a priest. And as touching the sacrament of the altar, she protested that if she or any other did receive the sacrament so as Christ and his apostles after him did deliver it, then she and they did receive it to their comfort: but as it is now used in the church, she said that no man could otherwise receive it than to his damnation, as she thought. Afterwards sentence being read, she was committed to the sheriffs, and suffered with the rest, as a witness of Christ and of his truth, the 31st day of January.

Against Anne Albright, likewise appearing before the judge and his colleagues, it was also objected concerning the same matter of confession: whereunto she answered in these words, "that she would not be confessed of a priest;" and added moreover, speaking unto the priest, "You priests," said she, "are the children of perdition, and can do no good by your confession." She was condemned with the other four, and with them also suffered quietly, and with great comfort, for Christ's religion.

In like manner Joan Sole, of the parish of Horton, was condemned of the same Pharisees and priests, for not allowing confession auricular, and for denying the real presence and substance of Christ to be in the sacrament: who, after their pharisaical sentence being promulgated, was brought to the stake with the other four, and sustained the like martyrdom.

The fifth and last of this heavenly company of martyrs was Joan Catmer, of Hythe, wife of George Catmer, burned before. Being asked what she said to confession, she denied to be confessed. And the judge speaking of the sacrament of the altar, she affirmed that as then used it was a very idol. In this her confession remaining and persisting, she was by the like sentence cruelly of them condemned; and so suffered with the aforesaid, ratifying and confessing the true knowledge and doctrine of Christ Jesus our Saviour.