CHAPTER XIII. PERSECUTIONS IN ENGLAND DURING THE REIGN OF QUEEN MARY
The premature death of that celebrated young monarch, Edward the Sixth, occasioned the most extraordinary and wonderful occurrences, which had ever existed from the times of our blessed Lord and Saviour’s incarnation in human shape. This melancholy event became speedily a subject of general regret. The succession to the British throne was soon made a matter of contention; and the scenes which ensued were a demonstration of the serious affliction which the kingdom was involved in. As his loss to the nation was more and more unfolded, the remembrance of his government was more and more the basis of grateful recollection. The very awful prospect, which was soon presented to the friends of Edward’s administration, under the direction of his counsellors and servants, was a contemplation which the reflecting mind was compelled to regard with most alarming apprehensions. The rapid approaches which were made towards a total reversion of the proceedings of the young king’s reign, denoted the advances which were thereby represented to an entire revolution in the management of public affairs both in church and state.
Alarmed for the condition in which the kingdom was likely to be involved by the king’s death, an endeavour to prevent the consequences, which were but too plainly foreseen, was productive of the most serious and fatal effects. The king, in his long and lingering affliction, was induced to make a will, by which he bequeathed the English crown to lady Jane, the daughter of the duke of Suffolk, who had been married to the lord Guilford, the son of the duke of Northumberland, and was the grand-daughter of the second sister of king Henry, by Charles, duke of Suffolk. By this will, the succession of Mary and Elizabeth, his two sisters, was entirely superseded, from an apprehension of the returning system of popery; and the king’s council, with the chief of the nobility, the lord-mayor of the city of London, and almost all the judges and the principal lawyers of the realm, subscribed their names to this regulation, as a sanction to the measure. Lord chief justice Hale, though a true protestant and an upright judge, alone declined to unite his name in favour of the lady Jane, because he had already signified his opinion, that Mary was entitled to assume the reins of government. Others objected to Mary’s being placed on the throne, on account of their fears that she might marry a foreigner, and thereby bring the crown into considerable danger. Her partiality to popery also left little doubt on the minds of any, that she would be induced to revive the dormant interests of the pope, and change the religion which had been used both in the days of her father, king Henry, and in those of her brother Edward: for in all his time she had manifested the greatest stubbornness and inflexibility of temper, as must be obvious from her letter to the lords of the council, whereby she put in her claim to the crown, on her brother’s decease.
When this happened, the nobles, who had associated to prevent Mary’s succession, and had been instrumental in promoting, and, perhaps, advising the measures of Edward, speedily proceeded to proclaim lady Jane Gray, to be queen of England, in the city of London and various other populous cities of the realm. Though young, she possessed talents of a very superior nature, and her improvements under a most excellent tutor had given her many very great advantages.
Her reign was of only five days continuance, for Mary, having succeeded by false promises in obtaining the crown, speedily commenced the execution of her avowed intention of extirpating and burning every protestant. She was crowned at Westminister in the usual form, and her elevation was the signal for the commencement of the bloody persecution which followed.
Having obtained the sword of authority, she was not sparing in its exercise. The supporters of Lady Jane Gray were destined to feel its force. The duke of Northumberland was the first who experienced her savage resentment. Within a month after his confinement in the Tower, he was condemned, and brought to the scaffold, to suffer as a traitor. From his various crimes, resulting out of a sordid and inordinate ambition, he died unpitied and unlamented.
The changes, which followed with rapidity, unequivocally declared, that the queen was disaffected to the present state of religion.—Dr. Poynet was displaced to make room for Gardiner to be bishop of Winchester, to whom she also gave the important office of lord-chancellor. Dr. Ridley was dismissed from the see of London, and Bonne introduced. J. Story was put out of the bishopric of Chichester, to admit Dr. Day. J. Hooper was sent prisoner to the Fleet, and Dr. Heath put into the see of Worcester. Miles Coverdale was also excluded from Exeter, and Dr. Vesie placed in that diocess. Dr. Tonstall was also promoted to the see of Durham. “These things being marked and perceived, great heaviness and discomfort grew more and more to all good men’s hearts; but to the wicked great rejoicing. They that could dissemble took no great care how the matter went; but such, whose consciences were joined with the truth, perceived already coals to be kindled, which after should be the destruction of many a true christian.”
The words and behaviour of the lady Jane upon the Scaffold.
The next victim was the amiable lady Jane Gray, who, by her acceptance of the crown at the earnest solicitations of her friends, incurred the implacable resentment of the bloody Mary. When she first mounted the scaffold, she spake to the spectators in this manner: Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact against the queen’s highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but, touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and the face of you, good christian people, this day: and therewith she wrung her hands, wherein she had her book. Then said she, I pray you all, good christian people, to bear me witness, that I die a good christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess, that when I did know the word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God, that of his goodness he hath thus given me a time and a respite to repent and now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers. And then, kneeling down, she turned to Feckenham, saying, Shall I say this psalm? and he said, Yea. Then she said the psalm of Miserere mei Deus, in English, in a most devout manner throughout to the end; and then she stood up, and gave her maid, Mrs. Ellen, her gloves and handkerchief, and her book to Mr. Bruges; and then she untied her gown, and the executioner pressed upon her to help her off with it: but she, desiring him to let her alone, turned towards her two gentlewomen, who helped her off therewith, and also with her frowes, paaft, and neckerchief, giving to her a fair handkerchief to put about her eyes.
Then the executioner kneeled down, and asked her forgiveness whom she forgave most willingly. Then he desired her to stand upon the straw, which doing, she saw the block. Then she said, I pray you despatch me quickly. Then she kneeled down, saying, Will you take it off before I lay me down? And the executioner said, No madam. Then she tied a handkerchief about her eyes, and feeling for the block, she said, What shall I do? Where is it? Where is it? One of the standers-by guiding her thereunto, she laid her head upon the block, and then stretched forth her body, and said, Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and so finished her life, in the year of our Lord 1554, the 12th day of February, about the 17th year of her age.
Thus died the Lady Jane; and on the same day the lord Guilford, her husband, one of the duke of Northumberland’s sons, was likewise beheaded, two innocents in comparison of them that sat upon them. For they were both very young, and ignorantly accepted that which others had contrived, and by open proclamation consented to take from others, and give to them.
Touching the condemnation of this pious lady, it is to be noted, that Judge Morgan, who gave sentence against her, soon after he had condemned her, fell mad, and in his raving cried out continually, to have the lady Jane taken away from him, and so he ended his life.
On the 21st day of the same month, Henry, duke of Suffolk, was beheaded on Tower-hill, the fourth day after his condemnation: about which time many gentlemen and yeomen were condemned, whereof some were executed at London, and some in the country. In the number of whom was the lord Thomas Gray, brother to the said duke, being apprehended not long after in North-Wales, and executed for the same. Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, also, very narrowly escaped.
John Rogers, Vicar of St. Sepulchre’s, and Reader of St. Paul’s, London.
John Rogers was educated at Cambridge, and was afterward many years chaplain to the merchants adventurers at Antwerp in Brabant. Here he met with the celebrated martyr William Tindal, and Miles Coverdale, both voluntary exiles from their country for their aversion to popish superstition and idolatry. They were the instruments of his conversion; and he united with them in that translation of the Bible into English, entitled “The Translation of Thomas Matthew.” From the scriptures he knew that unlawful vows may be lawfully broken; hence he married, and removed to Wittenberg in Saxony, for the improvement of learning; and he there learned the Dutch language, and received the charge of a congregation, which he faithfully executed for many years. On king Edward’s accession, he left Saxony, to promote the work of reformation in England; and, after some time, Nicholas Ridley, then bishop of London, gave him a prebend in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the dean and chapter appointed him reader of the divinity lesson there. Here he continued until queen Mary’s succession to the throne, when the gospel and true religion were banished, and the Antichrist of Rome, with his superstition and idolatry, introduced.
The circumstance of Mr. Rogers having preached at Paul’s cross, after queen Mary arrived at the Tower, has been already stated. He confirmed in his sermon the true doctrine taught in King Edward’s time, and exhorted the people to beware of the pestilence of popery, idolatry, and superstition. For this he was called to account, but so ably defended himself, that, for that time, he was dismissed. The proclamation of the queen, however, to prohibit true preaching, gave his enemies a new handle against him. Hence he was again summoned before the council, and commanded to keep his house. He did so, though he might have escaped; and though he perceived the state of the true religion to be desperate. “He knew he could not want a living in Germany; and he could not forget a wife and ten children, and to seek means to succour them.” But all these things were insufficient to induce him to depart and, when once called to answer in Christ’s cause, he stoutly defended it, and hazarded his life for that purpose.
After long imprisonment in his own house, the restless Bonner, bishop of London, caused him to be committed to Newgate, there to be lodged among thieves and murderers.
After Mr. Rogers had been long and straitly imprisoned, and lodged in Newgate among thieves, often examined, and very uncharitably entreated, and at length unjustly and most cruelly condemned by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester: the 4th of February, in the year of our Lord 1555, being Monday in the morning, he was suddenly warned by the keeper of Newgates’s wife, to prepare himself for the fire; who, being then sound asleep, could scarce be awaked. At length being raised and awaked, and bid to make haste, Then said he, if it be so, I need not tie my points. And so was had down, first to bishop Bonner to be degraded: which being done, he craved of Bonner but one petition; and Bonner asking what that should be? Mr. Rogers replied, that he might speak a few words with his wife before his burning. But that could not be obtained of him.
When the time came, that he should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution, Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to Mr. Rogers, and asked him, if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the sacrament of the altar. Mr. Rogers answered that which I have preached I will seal with my blood. Then Mr. Woodroofe said, Thou art an heretic. That shall be known, quoth Mr. Rogers, at the day of judgment.—”Well, said Mr. Woodroofe, I will never pray for thee. But I will pray for you, said Mr. Rogers; and so was brought the same day, the 4th of February, by the sheriffs, towards Smithfield, saying the psalm Miserere by the way, all the people wonderfully rejoicing at his constancy with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And here, in the presence of Mr. Rochester, comptroller of the queen’s household, sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and a great number of people he was burnt to ashes, washing his hands in the flame as he was burning. A little before his burning, his pardon was brought if he would have recanted; but he utterly refused it. He was the first martyr of all the blessed company that suffered in Queen Mary’s time that gave the first adventure upon the fire. His wife and children, being eleven in number, ten able to go, and one sucking at her breast, met him by the way, as he went towards Smithfield: this sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood could nothing move him but that he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in the defence and quarrel of the gospel of Christ.”
The life and conduct of Dr. Rowland Taylor of Hadley.
Dr. Rowland Taylor, vicar of Hadley, in Suffolk, was a man of eminent learning, and had been admitted to the degree of doctor of the civil and canon law.
His attachment to the pure and uncorrupted principles of christianity recommended him to the favour and friendship of Dr. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he lived a considerable time, till through his interest he obtained the living of Hadley.
Dr. Taylor promoted the interest of the great Redeemer, and the souls of mankind, both by his preaching and example, during the time of king Edward VI. but on his demise, and the succession of queen Mary to the throne, he escaped not the cloud that burst on so many beside; for two of his parishioners, Foster, an attorney, and Clark, a tradesman, out of blind zeal, resolved that mass should be celebrated, in all its superstitious forms, in the parish church of Hadley, on Monday before Easter; this Dr. Taylor, entering the church, strictly forbade; but Clark forced the Doctor out of the church, celebrated mass, and immediately informed the lord-chancellor, bishop of Winchester of his behaviour, who summoned him to appear, and answer the complaints that were alleged against him.
The doctor upon the receipt of the summons, cheerfully prepared to obey the same; and rejected the advice of his friends to fly beyond sea. When Gardiner saw Dr. Taylor, he, according to his common custom, reviled him. Dr. Taylor heard his abuse patiently, and when the bishop said, How darest thou look me in the face! knowest thou not who I am? Dr. Taylor replied, You are Dr. Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and lord-chancellor, and yet but a mortal man. But if I should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear ye not God, the Lord of us all? With what countenance will you appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and answer to your oath made first unto king Henry the Eighth, and afterward unto king Edward the Sixth, his son?
A long conversation ensued, in which Dr. Taylor was so piously collected and severe upon his antagonist, that he exclaimed, Thou art a blasphemous heretic! Thou indeed blasphemist the blessed sacrament, (here he put off his cap) and speakest against the holy mass, which is made a sacrifice for the quick and the dead. The bishop afterward committed him into the king’s bench.
When Dr. Taylor came there, he found the virtuous and vigilant preacher of God’s word, Mr. Bradford; who equally thanked God that he had provided him with such a comfortable fellow-prisoner; and they both together praised God, and continued in prayer, reading and exhorting one another.
After that Dr. Taylor had lain some time in prison, he was cited to appear in the arches of Bow-church.
Dr. Taylor being condemned, was committed to the Clink, and the keepers were charged to treat him roughly; at night he was removed to the Poultry Compter.
When Dr. Taylor had lain in the Compter about a week, on the 4th of February, Bonner came to degrade him, bringing with him such ornaments as appertained to the massing mummery; but the Doctor refused these trappings till they were forced upon him.
The night after he was degraded, his wife came with John Hull, his servant, and his son Thomas, and were by the gentleness of the keepers permitted to sup with him.
After supper, walking up and down, he gave God thanks for his grace, that had so called him and given him strength to abide by his holy word and turning to his son Thomas, he exhorted him to piety and filial obedience in the most earnest manner.
Dr. Taylor, about two o’clock in the morning, was conveyed to the Woolpack, Aldgate, and had an affecting interview with his wife and daughter, and a female orphan he had brought up who had waited all night in St. Botolph’s porch, to see him pass, before being delivered to the sheriff of Essex. On coming out of the gates, John Hull, his good servant, stood at the rails with Thomas, (Dr. Taylor’s son.) This, said he, is my own son. Then he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and prayed for his son and blessed him.
At Chelmsford the sheriff of Suffolk met them, there to receive him, and to carry him into Suffolk. Being at supper, the sheriff of Essex very earnestly besought him to return to the popish religion, thinking with fair words to persuade him. When they had all drunk to him, and the cup was come to him, he said, Mr. Sheriff, and my masters all, I heartily thank you for your good will. I have hearkened to your words, and marked well your counsels. And to be plain with you, I perceive that I have been deceived myself, and am like to deceive a great many in Hadley of their expectations. At these words they all rejoiced, but the Doctor had a meaning very remote from theirs. He alluded to the disappointment that the worms would have in not being able to feast upon his portly and goodly body, which they would have done if, instead of being burnt, he had been buried.
When the sheriff and his company heard him speak thus, they were amazed, marvelling at the constant mind that could thus without fear make a jest of the cruel torments and death now at hand, prepared for him. At Chelmsford he was delivered to the sheriff of Suffolk, and by him conducted to Hadley.
When Dr. Taylor had arrived at Aldham-Common, the place where he should suffer, seeing a great multitude of people, he asked, What place is this, and what meaneth it that so much people are gathered hither? It was answered, It is Aldham-Common, the place where you must suffer; and the people are come to look upon you. Then he said, Thanked be God, I am even at home; and he alighted from his horse and with both hands rent the hood from his head.
His head had been notched and clipped like as a man would clip a fool’s; which cost the good bishop Bonner had bestowed upon him. But when the people saw his reverend and ancient face, with a long white beard, they burst out with weeping tears, and cried, saying, God save thee, good Dr. Taylor! Jesus Christ strengthen thee, and help thee! the Holy Ghost comfort thee! with such other like good wishes.
When he had prayed, he went to the stake and kissed it, and set himself into a pitch barrel, which they had put for him to stand in, and stood with his back upright against the stake, with his hands folded together, and his eyes towards heaven, and continually prayed.
They then bound him with the chains, and having set up the fagots, one Warwick cruelly cast a fagot at him which struck him on his head, and cut his face, so that the blood ran down. Then said Dr. Taylor, O friend, I have harm enough, what needed that?
Sir John Shelton standing by, as Dr. Taylor was speaking, and saying the psalm Miserere in English, struck him on the lips: You knave, said he, speak Latin: I will make thee. At last they kindled the fire; and Dr. Taylor holding up both his hands, calling upon God, and said, Merciful Father of heaven! for Jesus Christ, my Saviour’s sake, receive my soul into thy hands! So he stood still without either crying or moving, with his hands folded together, till Soyce, with a halberd struck him on the head till his brains fell out, and the corpse fell down into the fire.
Thus rendered up this man of God his blessed soul into the hands of his merciful Father, and to his most dear Saviour Jesus Christ, whom he most entirely loved, faithfully and earnestly preached, obediently followed in living, and constantly glorified in death.
Martyrdom of Tomkins, Pygot, Knight, Lawrence, Hunter, and Higbed.
Thomas Tomkins was by trade a weaver in Shoreditch, till he was summoned before the inhuman Bonner, and confined with many others, who renounced the errors of popery, in a prison in that tyrant’s house at Fulham.
Under his confinement, he was treated by the bishop not only unbecoming a prelate, but even a man; for the savage, because Tomkins would not assent to the doctrine of transubstantiation, bruised him in the face, and plucked off the greatest part of the hair of his beard.
On another occasion, this scandal to humanity, in the presence of many who came to visit at Fulham, took this poor honest man by the fingers, and held his hand directly over the flame of a wax candle having three or four wicks, supposing that, being terrified by the smart and pain of the fire, he would leave off the defence of the doctrine which he had received.
Tomkins thinking no otherwise, but there presently to die, began to commend himself unto the Lord, saying, O Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit, &c. All the time that his hand was burning the same Tomkins afterward reported to one James Hinse, that his spirit was so rapt, that he felt no pain. In which burning he never shrank till the veins shrank, and the sinews burst and the water spurted into Mr. Harpsfield’s face: insomuch that Mr. Harpsfield, moved with pity, desired the bishop to stay, saying, that he had tried him enough.
After undergoing two examinations, and refusing to swerve from his duty and belief, he was commanded to appear before the bishop.
Agreeably to this mandate, being brought before the bloody tribunal of bishops, and pressed to recant his errors and return to the mother church, he maintained his fidelity, nor would swerve in the least from the articles he had signed with his own hand. Having therefore declared him an obstinate heretic, they delivered him up to the secular power, and he was burned in Smithfield, March 16th, 1555, triumphant in the midst of the flames, and adding to the noble company of martyrs, who had preceded him through the path of the fiery trial to the realms of immortal glory.
William Hunter had been trained to the doctrines of the reformation from his earliest youth, being descended from religious parents, who carefully instructed him in the principles of the true religion.
Hunter, then nineteen years of age, refusing to receive the communion at mass, was threatened to be brought before the bishop; to whom this valiant young martyr was conducted by a constable.
Bonner caused William to be brought into a chamber, where he began to reason with him, promising him security and pardon if he would recant. Nay, he would have been content if he would have gone only to receive and to confession, but William would not do so for all the world.
Upon this the bishop commanded his men to put William in the stocks in his gate-house, where he sat two days and nights, with a crust of brown bread and a cup of water only, which he did not touch.
At the two days’ end, the bishop came to him, and finding him steadfast in the faith, sent him to the convict prison, and commanded the keeper to lay irons upon him as many as he could bear. He continued in prison three quarters of a year, during which time he had been before the bishop five times, besides the time when he was condemned in the consistory in St. Paul’s, February 9th, at which time his brother, Robert Hunter, was present.
Then the bishop, calling William, asked him if he would recant, and finding he was unchangeable, he pronounced sentence upon him, that he should go from that place to Newgate for a time, and thence to Brentwood, there to be burned.
About a month afterward, William was sent down to Brentwood, where he was to be executed. On coming to the stake, he knelt down and read the 51st psalm, till he came to these words, “The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and a broken heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Steadfast in refusing the queen’s pardon, if he would become an apostate, at length one Richard Ponde, a bailiff, came, and made the chain fast about him.
William now cast his psalter into his brother’s hand, who said William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death. Behold, answered William, I am not afraid. Then he lifted up his hands to heaven, and said, Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit and casting down his head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.
About the same time William Pygot, Stephen Knight, and Rev. John Lawrence, were burnt as heretics, by order of the infamous Bonner. Thomas Higbed and Thomas Causton shared the same fate.
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