CHAPTER XIII. PERSECUTIONS IN ENGLAND DURING THE REIGN OF QUEEN MARY I
Executions at Islington.
About the 17th of Sept. suffered at Islington the following four professors of Christ: Ralph Allerton, James Austoo, Margery Austoo, and Richard Roth.
James Austoo and his wife, of St. Allhallows, Barking, London, were sentenced for not believing in the presence. Richard Roth rejected the seven sacraments, and was accused of comforting the heretics by the following letter written in his own blood, and intended to have been sent to his friends at Colchester:—
“O dear Brethren and Sisters,
“How much reason have you to rejoice in God, that he hath given you such faith to overcome this blood-thirsty tyrant thus far! And no doubt he that hath begun that good work in you, will fulfil it unto the end. O dear hearts in Christ, what a crown of glory shall ye receive with Christ in the kingdom of God! O that it had been the good will of God that I had been ready to have gone with you; for I lie in my lord’s Little-ease by day, and in the night I lie in the Coal-house, apart from Ralph Allerton, or any other; and we look every day when we shall be condemned; for he said that I should be burned within ten days before Easter; but I lie still at the pool’s brink, and every man goeth in before me; but we abide patiently the Lord’s leisure, with many bonds, in fetters and stocks, by which we have received great joy of God. And now fare you well, dear brethren and sisters, in this world, but I trust to see you in the heavens face to face.
“O brother Munt, with your wife and my sister Rose, how blessed are you in the Lord, that God hath found you worthy to suffer for his sake! with all the rest of my dear brethren and sisters known and unknown. O be joyful even unto death. Fear it not, saith Christ, for I have overcome death. O dear hearts, seeing that Jesus Christ will be our help, O tarry you the Lord’s leisure. Be strong, let your hearts be of good comfort, and wait you still for the Lord. He is at hand. Yea, the angel of the Lord pitcheth his tent round about them that fear him, and delivereth them which way he seeth best. For our lives are in the Lord’s hands; and they can do nothing unto us before God suffer them. Therefore give all thanks to God.
“O dear hearts, you shall be clothed in long white garments upon the mount of Sion, with the multitude of saints, and with Jesus Christ our Saviour, who will never forsake us. O blessed virgins, ye have played the wise virgins’ part, in that ye have taken oil in your lamps that ye may go in with the bridegroom, when he cometh, into the everlasting joy with him. But as for the foolish, they shall be shut out, because they made not themselves ready to suffer with Christ, neither go about to take up his cross. O dear hearts, how precious shall your death be in the sight of the Lord! for dear is the death of his saints. O fare you well, and pray. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen, Amen. Pray, pray, pray!
“Written by me, with my own blood,
This letter, so justly denominating Bonner the “blood-thirsty tyrant,” was not likely to excite his compassion. Roth accused him of bringing them to secret examination by night, because he was afraid of the people by day. Resisting every temptation to recant, he was condemned, and, Sept. 17, 1557, these four martyrs perished at Islington, for the testimony of the Lamb, who was slain that they might be of the redeemed of God.
Agnes Bengeor and Margaret Thurston were doomed to the fire at Colchester, Sept. 17, 1557. Humbly they knelt to pray, and joyfully they arose to be chained to the stake, uttering invocations and hallelujahs, till the surrounding flames mounted to the seat of life, and their spirits ascended to the Almighty Saviour of all who truly believe!
About this time suffered, at Northampton, John Kurde, shoemaker of Syrsam, Northamptonshire.
John Noyes, a shoemaker, of Laxfield, Suffolk, was taken to Eye and at midnight, Sept. 21, 1557, he was brought from Eye to Laxfield to be burned. On the following morning he was led to the stake, prepared for the horrid sacrifice. Mr. Noyes, on coming to the fatal spot, knelt down, prayed, and rehearsed the 50th psalm. When the chain enveloped him, he said, “Fear not them that kill the body, but fear him that can kill both body and soul, and cast it into everlasting fire!” As one Cadman placed a fagot against him, he blessed the hour in which he was born to die for the truth: and while trusting only upon the all-sufficient merits of the Redeemer, fire was set to the pile, and the blazing fagots in a short time stifled his last words, Lord, have mercy on me!—Christ, have Mercy upon me!—The ashes of the body were buried in a pit, and with them one of his feet, whole to the ankle, with the stocking on.
Mrs. Cicely Ormes.
This young martyr, aged twenty-two, was the wife of Mr. Edmund Ormes, worsted weaver of St. Lawrence, Norwich. At the death of Miller and Elizabeth Cooper, before mentioned, she had said that she would pledge them of the same cup they drank of. For these words she was brought to the chancellor, who would have discharged her upon promising to go to church, and to keep her belief to herself. As she would not consent to this, the chancellor urged that he had shown more lenity to her than any other person, and was unwilling to condemn her, because she was an ignorant foolish woman; to this she replied, (perhaps with more shrewdness than he expected,) that, however great his desire might be to spare her sinful flesh, it could not equal her inclination to surrender it up in so great a quarrel. The chancellor then pronounced the fiery sentence, and, September 23, 1557, she was brought to the stake, at eight o’clock in the morning. After declaring her faith to the people, she laid her hand on the stake, and said, “Welcome thou cross of Christ.” Her hand was sooted in doing this, (for it was the same stake at which Miller and Cooper were burnt,) and she at first wiped it; but directly after again welcomed and embraced it as the “sweet cross of Christ.” After the tormentors had kindled the fire, she said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit doth rejoice in God my Saviour.” Then crossing her hands upon her breast, and looking upwards with the utmost serenity, she stood the fiery furnace. Her hands continued gradually to rise till the sinews were dried, and then they fell. She uttered no sigh of pain, but yielded her life, an emblem of that celestial paradise in which is the presence of God, blessed for ever.
It might be contended that this martyr voluntarily sought her own death, as the chancellor scarcely exacted any other penance of her than to keep her belief to herself; yet it should seem in this instance as if God had chosen her to be a shining light, for a twelve-month before she was taken, she had recanted; but she was wretched till the chancellor was informed, by letter, that she repented of her recantation from the bottom of her heart. As if to compensate for her former apostacy, and to convince the catholics that she meant no more to compromise for her personal security, she boldly refused his friendly offer of permitting her to temporize. Her courage in such a cause deserves commendation—the cause of Him who has said, Whoever is ashamed of me on earth, of such will I be ashamed in heaven.
In November, Thomas Spurdance, one of queen Mary’s servants, was brought before the chancellor of Norwich, who, among his interrogations, was severely recriminated upon by the prisoner. This good man was taken by two of his fellow-servants, dwelling at Codman, in Suffolk. He was sent to Bury where he remained some time in prison, and in November, 1557, braved the fiery indignation of the enemies of Christ with Christian fortitude and resignation.
J. Hallingdale, W. Sparrow, and R Gibson, suffered in Smithfield November 18th, 1557.
Rev. John Rough.
This pious martyr was a Scotchman: at the age of 17, he entered himself as one of the order of Black Friars, at Stirling, in Scotland. He had been kept out of an inheritance by his friends, and he took this step in revenge for their conduct to him. After being there sixteen years, Lord Hamilton, Earl of Arran, taking a liking to him, the archbishop of St. Andrew’s induced the provincial of the house to dispense with his habit and order; and he thus became the Earl’s chaplain. He remained in this spiritual employment a year, and in that time God wrought in him a saving knowledge of the truth; for which reason the Earl sent him to preach in the freedom of Ayr, where he remained four years; but finding danger there from the religious complexion of the times, and learning that there was much gospel freedom in England, he travelled up to the duke of Somerset, then Lord Protector of England, who gave him a yearly salary of twenty pounds, and authorized him, to preach at Carlisle, Berwick, and Newcastle, where he married. He was afterward removed to a benefice at Hull, in which he remained till the death of Edward VI.
In consequence of the tide of persecution then setting in, he fled with his wife to Friesland, and at Nordon they followed the occupation of knitting hose, caps, &c. for subsistence. Impeded in his business by the want of yarn, he came over to England to procure a quantity, and on Nov. 10th, arrived in London, where he soon heard of a secret society of the faithful, to whom he joined himself, and was in a short time elected their minister, in which occupation he strengthened them in every good resolution. Dec. 12th, through the information of one Taylor, a member of the society, Mr. Rough, with Cuthbert Symson and others, was taken up in the Saracen’s Head, Islington, where, under the pretext of coming to see a play, their religious exercises were holden. The queen’s vice-chamberlain conducted Rough and Symson before the council, in whose presence they were charged with meeting to celebrate the communion. The council wrote to Bonner and he lost no time in this affair of blood. In three days he had him up, and on the next (the 20th) resolved to condemn him. The charges laid against him were, that he, being a priest, was married, and that he had rejected the service in the Latin tongue. Rough wanted not arguments to reply to these flimsy tenets. In short, he was degraded and condemned.
Mr. Rough, it should be noticed, when in the north, in Edward the VIth’s reign, had saved Dr. Watson’s life, who afterward sat with bishop Bonner on the bench. This ungrateful prelate, in return for the kind act he had received, boldly accused Mr. Rough of being the most pernicious heretic in the country. The godly minister reproved him for his malicious spirit; he affirmed that, during the thirty years he had lived, he had never bowed the knee to Baal; and that twice at Rome he had seen the pope borne about on men’s shoulders with the false-named sacrament carried before him, presenting a true picture of the very antichrist; yet was more reverence shown to him than to the wafer, which they accounted to be their God. “Ah?” said Bonner, rising up, and making towards him, as if he would have torn his garment, “hast thou been at Rome, and seen our holy father the pope, and dost thou blaspheme him after this sort?” This said, he fell upon him, tore off a piece of his beard, and, that the day might begin to his own satisfaction, he ordered the object of his rage to be burnt by half past five the following morning.
Few professors of Christ possessed more activity and zeal than this excellent person. He not only labored to preserve his friends from the contagion of popery, but to guard them against the terrors of persecution. He was deacon of the little congregation over which Mr. Rough presided as minister.
Mr. Symson has written an account of his own sufferings, which we cannot detail better than in his own words:
“On the 13th of December, 1557, I was committed by the council to the tower of London. On the following Thursday, I was called into the ware-room, before the constable of the tower, and the recorder of London, Mr. Cholmly, who commanded me to inform them of the names of those who came to the English service. I answered, that I would declare nothing; in consequence of my refusal, I was set upon a rack of iron, as I judge for the space of three hours!
“They then asked me if I would confess: I answered as before. After being unbound, I was carried back to my lodging. The Sunday after I was brought to the same place again, before the lieutenant and recorder of London, and they examined me. As I had answered before, so I answered now. Then the lieutenant swore by God I should tell; after which my two fore-fingers were bound together, and a small arrow placed between them, they drew it through so fast that the blood followed, and the arrow brake.
“After enduring the rack twice again, I was retaken to my lodging, and ten days after the lieutenant asked me if I would not now confess that which they had before asked of me. I answered, that I had already said as much as I would. Three weeks after I was sent to the priest, where I was greatly assaulted, and at whose hand I received the pope’s curse, for bearing witness of the resurrection of Christ. And thus I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, with all those who unfeignedly call upon the name of Jesus; desiring God of his endless mercy, through the merits of his dear Son Jesus Christ, to bring us all to his everlasting kingdom, Amen. I praise God for his great mercy shown upon us. Sing Hosanna to the Highest with me, Cuthbert Symson. God forgive my sins! I ask forgiveness of all the world, and I forgive all the world, and thus I leave the world, in the hope of a joyful resurrection!”
If this account be duly considered, what a picture of repeated tortures does it present! But, even the cruelty of the narration is exceeded by the patient meekness with which it was endured. Here are no expressions of malice, no invocations even of God’s retributive justice, not a complaint of suffering wrongfully! On the contrary, praise to God, forgiveness of sin, and a forgiving all the world, concludes this unaffected interesting narrative.
Bonner’s admiration was excited by the steadfast coolness of this martyr. Speaking of Mr. Symson in the consistory, he said, “You see what a personable man he is, and then of his patience, I affirm, that, if he were not a heretic, he is a man of the greatest patience that ever came before me. Thrice in one day has he been racked in the tower: in my house also he has felt sorrow, and yet never have I seen his patience broken.”
The day before this pious deacon was to be condemned, while in the stocks in the bishop’s coal-house, he had the vision of a glorified form, which much encouraged him. This he certainly attested to his wife, Mr. Austen, and others, before his death; but Mr. Fox, in reciting this article, leaves it to the reader’s judgment, to consider it either as a natural or supernatural circumstance.
With this ornament of the Christian reformation were apprehended Mr. Hugh Foxe and John Devinish; the three were brought before Bonner, March 19, 1558, and the papistical articles tendered. They rejected them, and were all condemned. As they worshipped together in the same society, at Islington, so they suffered together in Smithfield, March 28; in whose death the God of Grace was glorified, and true believers confirmed!
Wm. Nichol, of Haverfordwest, Wales, was taken up for reprobating the practice of the worshippers of antichrist, and April 9, 1558, bore testimony to the truth at Haverfordwest, in Wales, by enduring the fire.
Thomas Hudson, Thomas Carman, and William Seamen,
Were condemned by a bigoted vicar of Aylesbury, named Berry. The spot of execution was called Lollard’s pit, without Bishopsgate, at Norwich. After joining together in humble petition to the throne of grace, they rose, went to the stake, and were encircled with their chains. To the great surprise of the spectators, Hudson slipped from under his chain, and came forward. A great opinion prevailed that he was about to recant; others thought that he wanted further time. In the mean time, his companions at the stake urged every promise and exhortation to support him. The hopes of the enemies of the cross, however, were disappointed: the good man, far from fearing the smallest personal terror at the approaching pangs of death, was only alarmed that his Saviour’s face seemed to be hidden from him. Falling upon his knees, his spirit wrestled with God and God verified the words of his Son, “Ask, and it shall be given.” The martyr rose in an ecstacy of joy, and exclaimed, “Now, I thank God, I am strong! and care not what man can do to me!” With an unruffled countenance he replaced himself under the chain, joined his fellow-sufferers, and with them suffered death, to the comfort of the godly, and the confusion of antichrist.
Berry, unsatiated with this demoniacal act, summoned up two hundred persons in the town of Aylesham, whom he compelled to kneel to the cross at Pentecost, and inflicted other punishments. He struck a poor man for a trifling word, with a flail, which proved fatal to the unoffending object. He also gave a woman named Alice Oxes, so heavy a blow with his fist, as she met him entering the hall when he was in an ill-humour, that she died with the violence. This priest was rich, and possessed great authority; he was a reprobate, and, like the priesthood, he abstained from marriage, to enjoy the more a debauched and licentious life. The Sunday after the death of queen Mary, he was revelling with one of his concubines, before vespers; he then went to church, administered baptism, and in his return to his lascivious pastime, he was smitten by the hand of God. Without a moment given for repentance, he fell to the ground, and a groan was the only articulation permitted him. In him we may behold the difference between the end of a martyr and a persecutor.
In the month of May, William Harris, Richard Day, and Christiana George, suffered at Colchester, and there humbly made an offering of themselves to God.
Apprehensions at Islington.
In a retired close, near a field, in Islington, a company of decent persons had assembled, to the number of forty. While they were religiously engaged in praying and expounding the scripture, twenty-seven of them were carried before Sir Roger Cholmly. Some of the women made their escape, twenty-two were committed to Newgate, who continued in prison seven weeks. Previous to their examination, they were informed by the keeper, (Alexander,) that nothing more was requisite to procure their discharge, than to hear mass. Easy as this condition may seem, these martyrs valued their purity of conscience more than loss of life or property; hence, thirteen were burnt, seven in Smithfield, and six at Brentford; two died in prison, and the other seven were providentially preserved. The names of the seven who suffered were, H. Pond, R. Estland, R. Southain, M. Ricarby, J. Floyd, J. Holiday, and R. Holland. They were sent to Newgate June 16, 1558, and executed on the 27th.
The story of Roger Holland is the only one of these martyrs which has been handed down to us. He was first an apprentice to one Mr. Kempton, at the Black-Boy, Watling-street. He was, in every sense of the word, licentious, a lover of bad company, and, more than all, a stubborn determined papist—one of whom it might be said, that a miracle only could effect his conversion. Dissipated as he was, his master had the imprudent confidence to trust him with money; and, having received thirty pounds on his master’s account, he lost it at the gaming table. Knowing it was impossible to regain his character, he determined to withdraw to France or Flanders.—With this resolution, he called early in the morning on a discreet servant in the house, named Elizabeth, who professed the gospel, and lived a life that did honour to her profession. To her he revealed the loss his folly had occasioned, regretted that he had not followed her advice, and begged her to give his master a note of hand from him acknowledging the debt, which he would repay if ever it were in his power; he also entreated his disgraceful conduct might be kept secret, lest it would bring the grey hairs of his father with sorrow to a premature grave.
The maid, with a generosity and Christian principle rarely surpassed, conscious that his imprudence might be his ruin, brought him the thirty pounds, which was part of a sum of money recently left her by legacy. “Here,” said she, “is the sum requisite: you shall take the money, and I will keep the note; but expressly on this condition, that you abandon all lewd and vicious company; that you neither swear nor talk immodestly, and game no more; for, should I learn that you do, I will immediately show this note to your master. I also require, that you shall promise me to attend the daily lecture at Allhallows, and the sermon at St. Paul’s every Sunday; that you cast away all your books of popery, and in their place substitute the Testament and the Book of Service, and that you read the Scriptures with reverence and fear, calling upon God for his grace to direct you in his truth. Pray also fervently to God, to pardon your former offences, and not to remember the sins of your youth, and would you obtain his favour, ever dread to break his laws or offend his majesty. So shall God have you in his keeping, and grant you your heart’s desire.” We must honour the memory of this excellent domestic, whose pious endeavours were equally directed to benefit the thoughtless youth in this life and that which is to come. May her example be followed by the present generation of servants, who seek rather to seduce by vain dress and loose manners the youth who are associated in servitude with them! God did not suffer the wish of this excellent domestic to be thrown upon a barren soil; within half a year after the licentious Holland became a zealous professor of the gospel, and was an instrument of conversion to his father and others whom he visited in Lancashire, to their spiritual comfort and reformation from popery.
His father, pleased with his change of conduct, gave him forty pounds to commence business with in London. Upon his return, like an honest man, he paid the debt of gratitude, and, rightly judging that she who had proved so excellent a friend and counsellor, would be no less amiable as a wife, he tendered her his hand. They were married in the first year of Mary, and a child was the fruit of their union, which Mr. Holland caused to be baptised by Mr. Ross in his own house. For this offence he was obliged to fly, and Bonner, with his accustomed implacability, seized his goods, and ill-treated his wife. After this, he remained secretly among the congregations of the faithful, till the last year of queen Mary, when he, with six others was taken not far from St. John’s Wood, and brought to Newgate upon May-day, 1558.
He was called before the bishop, Dr. Chedsey, the Harpsfields, &c. Dr. Chedsey expressed much affection for him, and promised he should not want any favour that he or his friends could procure, if he would not follow his conceit. This was seconded by squire Eaglestone, a gentleman of Lancashire, and a near kinsman of Holland’s, who said, “I am sure your honour means good to my cousin. I beseech God he may have the grace to follow your counsel.” Holland directly replied, “Sir, you crave of God you know not what. I beseech of God to open your eyes to see the light of his blessed word.” After some private communication among the commissioners, Bonner said, “I perceive, Roger, you will not be ruled by any counsel that I or my friends can give.”
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