CHAPTER XIII. PERSECUTIONS IN ENGLAND DURING THE REIGN OF QUEEN MARY E
Mr. John Philpot.
This martyr was the son of a knight, born in Hampshire, and brought up at New College, Oxford, where he several years studied the civil law, and became eminent in the Hebrew tongue. He was a scholar and a gentleman, zealous in religion, fearless in disposition, and a detester of flattery. After visiting Italy, he returned to England, affairs in King Edward’s days wearing a more promising aspect. During this reign he continued to be archdeacon of Winchester under Dr. Poinet, who succeeded Gardiner. Upon the accession of Mary, a convocation was summoned, in which Mr. Philpot defended the Reformation against his ordinary, Gardiner, (again made bishop of Winchester,) and soon was conducted to Bonner and other commissioners for examination, Oct. 2, 1555, after being eighteen months imprisoned. Upon his demanding to see the commission, Dr. Story cruelly observed, “I will spend both my gown and my coat, but I will burn thee! Let him be in Lollard’s tower, (a wretched prison,) for I will sweep the King’s Bench and all other prisons of these heretics!” Upon Mr. Philpot’s second examination, it was intimated to him, that Dr. Story had said that the Lord Chancellor had commanded that he should be made way with. It is easy to foretell the result of this inquiry; he was committed to Bonner’s coal-house, where he joined company with a zealous minister of Essex, who had been induced to sign a bill of recantation; but afterward, stung by his conscience, he asked the bishop to let him see the instrument again, when he tore it to pieces; which induced Bonner in a fury to strike him repeatedly, and tear away part of his beard. Mr. Philpot had a private interview with Bonner the same night, and was then remanded to his bed of straw like other prisoners, in the coal-house. After seven examinations, Bonner ordered him to be set in the stocks, and on the following Sunday separated him from his fellow-prisoners as a sower of heresy, and ordered him up to a room near the battlements of St. Paul’s, eight feet by thirteen, on the other side of Lollard’s tower, and which could be overlooked by any one in the bishop’s outer gallery. Here Mr. Philpot was searched, but happily he was successful in secreting some letters containing his examinations. In the eleventh investigation before various bishops, and Mr. Morgan, of Oxford, the latter was so driven into a corner by the close pressure of Mr. Philpot’s arguments, that he said to him, “Instead of the spirit of the gospel which you boast to possess, I think it is the spirit of the buttery, which your fellows have had, who were drunk before their death, and went I believe drunken to it.” To this unfounded and brutish remark, Mr. Philpot indignantly replied, “It appeareth by your communication, that you are better acquainted with that spirit than the spirit of God; wherefore I tell thee, thou painted wall and hypocrite, in the name of the living God, whose truth I have told thee, that God shall rain fire and brimstone upon such blasphemers as thou art!” He was then remanded by Bonner, with an order not to allow him his Bible nor candlelight. December 4th, Mr. Philpot had his next hearing, and this was followed by two more, making in all, fourteen conferences, previous to the final examination in which he was condemned; such were the perseverance and anxiety of the Catholics, aided by the argumentative abilities of the most distinguished of the papal bishops, to bring him into the pale of their church. Those examinations, which were very long and learned, were all written down by Mr. Philpot, and a stronger proof of the imbecility of the Catholic doctors, cannot, to an unbiassed mind, be exhibited. December 16th, in the consistory of St. Paul’s bishop Bonner, after laying some trifling accusations to his charge such as secreting powder to make ink, writing some private letters, &c. proceeded to pass the awful sentence upon him, after he and the other bishops had urged him by every inducement to recant. He was afterward conducted to Newgate, where the avaricious Catholic keeper loaded him with heavy irons, which by the humanity of Mr. Macham were ordered to be taken off. December 17th, Mr. Philpot received intimation that he was to die next day, and the next morning about eight o’clock, he joyfully met the sheriffs, who were to attend him to the place of execution. Upon entering Smithfield the ground was so muddy, that two officers offered to carry him to the stake, but he replied, “Would you make me a pope? I am content to finish my journey on foot.” Arrived at the stake, he said, “Shall I disdain to suffer at the stake, when my Redeemer did not refuse to suffer the most vile death upon the Cross for me?” He then meekly recited the cvii. and cviii. Psalms, and when he had finished his prayers, was bound to the post, and fire applied to the pile. On December 18th, 1555, perished this illustrious martyr, reverenced by man, and glorified in heaven! His letters arising out of the cause for which he suffered, are elegant, numerous, and elaborate.
Rev. T. Whittle, B. Green, T. Brown, J. Tudson, J. Ent, Isabel Tooster, and Joan Lashford.
These seven persons were summoned before Bonner’s consistory, and the articles of the Romish church tendered for their approbation. Their refusal subjected them to the sentence of condemnation, and on January 27, 1556, they underwent the dreadful sentence of blood in Smithfield.
Mr. Bartlet Green was condemned the next day.
Mr. Thomas Brown, born at Histon, Ely, but afterward of St. Bride’s, London, was presented by the parish constable to Bonner, for absenting himself from church. This faithful soldier of Christ suffered on the same day with the preceding.
Mr. John Tudson, of Ipswich by birth, was apprenticed in London to a Mr. Goodyear, of St. Mary Botolph. He was condemned January 15, 1556, and consigned to the secular power, which completed the fiery tyranny of the law, January 27, to the glory of God, and the immortal salvation of the meek sufferer.
Subsequently, John Hunt, Isabella Forster, and Joan Warne, were condemned and executed.
John Lomas, Agnes Snoth, Anne Wright, Joan Sole, and Joan Catmer.
These five martyrs suffered together, January 31, 1556. John Lomas was a young man of Tenterden. He was cited to appear at Canterbury, and was examined January 17. His answers being adverse to the idolatrous doctrine of the papacy, he was condemned on the following day, and suffered January 31.
Agnes Snoth, widow, of Smarden Parish, was several times summoned before the Catholic Pharisees, and rejecting absolution, indulgences, transubstantiation, and auricular confession, she was adjudged worthy to suffer death, and endured martyrdom, January 31, with Anne Wright and Joan Sole, who were placed in similar circumstances, and perished at the same time, with equal resignation. Joan Catmer, the last of this heavenly company, of the parish Hithe, was the wife of the martyr George Catmer.
Seldom in any country, for political controversy, have four women been led to execution, whose lives were irreproachable, and whom the pity of savages would have spared. We cannot but remark here that, when the Protestant power first gained the ascendency over the Catholic superstition, and some degree of force in the laws was necessary to enforce uniformity, whence some bigoted people suffered privation in their person or goods, we read of few burnings, savage cruelties, or poor women brought to the stake, but it is the nature of error to resort to force instead of argument, and to silence truth by taking away existence, of which the Redeemer himself is an instance. The above five persons were burnt at two stakes in one fire, singing hosannahs to the glorified Saviour, till the breath of life was extinct. Sir John Norton, who was present, wept bitterly at their unmerited sufferings.
Dr. Thomas Cranmer was descended from an ancient family, and was born at the village of Arselacton, in the county of Northampton. After the usual school education he was sent to Cambridge, and was chosen fellow of Jesus College. Here he married a gentleman’s daughter, by which he forfeited his fellowship, and became a reader in Buckingham college, placing his wife at the Dolphin inn, the landlady of which was a relation of hers, whence arose the idle report that he was an ostler. His lady shortly after dying in childbed, to his credit he was re-chosen a fellow of the college before mentioned. In a few years after, he was promoted to be Divinity Lecturer, and appointed one of the examiners over those who were ripe to become Bachelors or Doctors in Divinity. It was his principle to judge of their qualifications by the knowledge they possessed of the Scriptures, rather than of the ancient fathers, and hence many popish priests were rejected, and others rendered much improved.
He was strongly solicited by Dr. Capon to be one of the fellows on the foundation of Cardinal Wolsey’s college, Oxford, of which he hazarded the refusal. While he continued in Cambridge, the question of Henry VIII.’s divorce with Catharine was agitated. At that time, on account of the plague, Dr. Cranmer removed to the house of a Mr. Cressy, at Waltham Abbey, whose two sons were then educating under him. The affair of divorce, contrary to the king’s approbation, had remained undecided above two or three years, from the intrigues of the canonists and civilians, and though the cardinals Campeius and Wolsey were commissioned from Rome to decide the question, they purposely protracted the sentence. It happened that Dr. Gardiner (secretary) and Dr. Fox, defenders of the king in the above suit, came to the house of Mr. Cressy to lodge, while the king removed to Greenwich. At supper, a conversation ensued with Dr. Cranmer, who suggested that the question, whether a man may marry his brother’s wife or not, could be easily and speedily decided by the word of God, and this as well in the English courts as in those of any foreign nation. The king, uneasy at the delay, sent for Dr. Gardiner and Dr. Foxe, to consult them, regretting that a new commission must be sent to Rome, and the suit be endlessly protracted. Upon relating to the king the conversation which had passed on the previous evening with Dr. Cranmer, his majesty sent for him, and opened the tenderness of conscience upon the near affinity of the queen. Dr. Cranmer advised that the matter should be referred to the most learned divines of Cambridge and Oxford, as he was unwilling to meddle in an affair of such weight; but the king enjoined him to deliver his sentiments in writing, and to repair for that purpose to the Earl of Wiltshire’s, who would accommodate him with books, and every thing requisite for the occasion. This Dr. Cranmer immediately did, and in his declaration, not only quoted the authority of the Scriptures, of general councils and the ancient writers, but maintained that the bishop of Rome had no authority whatever to dispense with the word of God. The king asked him if he would stand by this bold declaration; to which replying in the affirmative, he was deputed ambassador to Rome, in conjunction with the Earl of Wiltshire, Dr. Stokesley, Dr. Carne, Dr. Bennet, and others, previous to which, the marriage was discussed in most of the universities of Christendom and at Rome; when the pope presented his toe to be kissed, as customary, the Earl of Wiltshire and his party refused. Indeed, it is affirmed, that a spaniel of the Earl’s, attracted by the glitter of the pope’s toe, made a snap at it, whence his holiness drew in his sacred foot, and kicked at the offender with the other. Upon the pope demanding the cause of their embassy, the Earl presented Dr. Cranmer’s book, declaring that his learned friends had come to defend it. The pope treated the embassy honourably, and appointed a day for the discussion, which he delayed, as if afraid of the issue of the investigation. The Earl returned, and Dr. Cranmer, by the king’s desire, visited the emperor, and was successful in bringing him over to his opinion. Upon the Doctor’s return to England, Dr. Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, having quitted this transitory life, Dr. Cranmer was deservedly, and by Dr. Warham’s desire, elevated to that eminent station.
In this function, it may be said that he followed closely the charge of St. Paul. Diligent in duty, he rose at five in the morning, and continued in study and prayer till nine: between then and dinner, he devoted to temporal affairs. After dinner, if any suitors wanted hearing, he would determine their business with such an affability, that even the defaulters were scarcely displeased. Then he would play at chess for an hour, or see others play, and at five o’clock he heard the Common Prayer read, and from this till supper he took the recreation of walking. At supper his conversation was lively and entertaining; again he walked or amused himself till nine o’clock, and then entered his study.
He ranked high in favour with king Henry and ever had the purity and the interest of the English church deeply at heart. His mild and forgiving disposition is recorded in the following instance—An ignorant priest, in the country, had called Cranmer an ostler, and spoken very derogatory of his learning. Lord Cromwell receiving information of it, the man was sent to the fleet, and his case was told to the archbishop by a Mr. Chertsey, a grocer, and a relation of the priest’s. His grace, having sent for the offender, reasoned with him, and solicited the priest to question him on any learned subject. This the man, overcome by the bishop’s good nature, and knowing his own glaring incapacity, declined, and entreated his forgiveness, which was immediately granted, with a charge to employ his time better when he returned to his parish. Cromwell was much vexed at the lenity displayed, but the bishop was ever more ready to receive injury than to retaliate in any other manner than by good advice and good offices.
At the time that Cranmer was raised to be archbishop, he was king’s chaplain, and archdeacon of Taunton; he was also constituted by the pope, penitentiary general of England. It was considered by the king that Cranmer would be obsequious; hence the latter married the king to Anne Boleyn, performed her coronation, stood godfather to Elizabeth, the first child, and divorced the king from Catharine. Though Cranmer received a confirmation of his dignity from the pope, he always protested against acknowledging any other authority than the king’s, and he persisted in the same independent sentiments when before Mary’s commissioners in 1555. One of the first steps after the divorce was to prevent preaching throughout his diocess, but this narrow measure had rather a political view than a religious one, as there were many who inveighed against the king’s conduct. In his new dignity Cranmer agitated the question of supremacy, and by his powerful and just arguments induced the parliament to “render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s.” During Cranmer’s residence in Germany, 1531, he became acquainted with Ossiander, at Nurenburgh, and married his niece, but left her with him while on his return to England; after a season he sent for her privately, and she remained with him till the year 1539, when the Six Articles compelled him to return her to her friends for a time.
It should be remembered that Ossiander, having obtained the approbation of his friend Cranmer, published the laborious work of the Harmony of the Gospels in 1537. In 1534 the archbishop completed the dearest wish of his heart, the removal of every obstacle to the perfection of the Reformation, by the subscription of the nobles and bishops to the king’s sole supremacy. Only bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More made objection; and their agreement not to oppose the succession, Cranmer was willing to consider as sufficient, but the monarch would have no other than an entire concession. Not long after, Gardiner, in a private interview with the king, spoke inimically of Cranmer, (whom he maliciously hated) for assuming the title of Primate of all England, as derogatory to the supremacy of the king, this created much jealousy against Cranmer, and his translation of the Bible was strongly opposed by Stokesley, bishop of London. It is said, upon the demise of queen Catharine, that her successor Anne Boleyn rejoiced—a lesson this to show how shallow is the human judgment! since her own execution took place in the spring of the following year, and the king, on the day following the beheading of this sacrificed lady, married the beautiful Jane Seymour, a maid of honour to the late queen. Cranmer was ever the friend of Anne Boleyn, but it was dangerous to oppose the will of the carnal tyrannical monarch.
THIS CHAPTER WAS WAY TOO BIG TO LEAVE IT AS ONE POST. HERE ARE THE LINKS FOR THE REMAINING OF THIS CHAPTER