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The Marian persecution-Summary of the victims-Commission to try preachers and hereticsHooper, and four others, condemned-Martyrdom of Hooper-Rowland Taylor-His martyrdom at Hadleigh-Married clergymen especially persecuted-Thomas Hawkes and bishop Bonner-Philpot-Toleration not practised by Reformers-The spy-system for discovery of heresy-Martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley-Cranmer's recantation-His repentance, and last exhortation-His martyrdom.
THE Act of 1555, for the renewing of the Statutes for the punishment of heretics, which statutes had been repealed in 1547,-was not to sleep. Gardiner and Bonner were not to play the part of "fond fathers," who had "bound up the threatening twigs of birch," only to stick the rod "in their children's sight for terror, not to use." With exquisite candour we are told,-" One knows perfectly, and is tired of being told over and over again, that the law for burning heretics was a very bad law, and ought never to have existed. But, in fact, it did exist, and it was the law of the country." * On the 19th of January, 1555, that law was not in force. On the 20th of January it came into full operation. On the 4th of February, John Rogers was burnt in Smithfield under the Act for the renewal of the Statutes " concerning punishment and reformation of heretics and Lollards." On the 8th of February, Laurence Saunders was burnt at Coventry. On the 9th, John Hooper was burnt at Gloucester. On the same day, Rowland Taylor was
Dr. Maitland, "Essays," p. 420.
SUMMARY OF THE PROTESTANT VICTIMS.
burnt at Hadleigh. Previous to the enactment which came into force on the 20th of January, the Ordinaries had "wanted authority to proceed" against those who were infected with " errors and heresies which of late have arisen, grown, and much increased within this realm;"* and thus these four of the first Protestant martyrs could not have been burnt until a new law was passed. The meaning of the law was made perfectly intelligible to all England from the 4th of February, 1555, to the 10th of November, 1558,-that crowning offering of five heretics at Canterbury, of whom two were women, having taken place one week before the death of queen Mary. These executions were not sharp and passionate outbursts of ecclesiastical power, exasperated by popular fury; or of regal tyranny, hurried into extremities by dread of rebellion. They were the calm and deliberate exposition of the principles by which England was to be governed under its Roman Catholic church and sovereigns. The appetite for blood was to be sustained in healthful energy, and not sickened by inordinate meals. In 1555, seventy-one heretics were executed; in 1556, eighty-three; † in 1557, eighty-eight; in 1558, forty. There was also a nice adjustment of the number of victims to the local demand. We are accustomed to talk of "the fires of Smithfield," as if London had a very undue proportion of the instruction of such sights. But in these four years, during which London and Middlesex saw fifty-eight executions, Kent had fifty-four, Essex fifty-one, Sussex forty-one, Suffolk and Norfolk thirty-one, Gloucester nine, Warwick six, whilst thirty-two were distributed over thirteen other districts. Nor was the lesson of the fagot confined to bishops and priests. Strype makes a total of the burnings to be 288; Speed, 277; and he classifies them as five bishops, twenty-one divines, eight gentlemen, eighty-four artificers, a hundred husbandmen, servants, and labourers, twenty-six wives, twenty widows, nine unmarried women, two boys, and two infants. No selection could have been more impartial.
On the 1st of January, 1555, the work was actively commenced that, in the end, was to make England thoroughly Protestant. Many of the leading divines were in prison; but smaller birds were to be taken in the fowler's net. On that day Thomas Rose, a man whose somewhat extravagant zeal had brought him into trouble in the days of king Henry, was arrested with thirty of his congregation, at a sheerman's house in Bow Church-yard. Driven from the use of the English service book which was banished from the churches; offended with the doctrines and ceremonial observances which had again become universal;-they prayed in secret, and often changed their places of meeting. They assembled in ships lying in the Thames; in empty lofts; in the fields. They held correspondence with those in exile; they made collections for those in prison. When men are oppressed for conscience sake no dread of imprisonment or death can prevent their combination. In the meetings of these impassioned men, the English spirit of hatred of tyranny was probably as strong as the Christian spirit of patience; and thus it has been a reproach to the sufferers in the Marian persecution that, smitten on one cheek they did not invariably turn the other cheek to the smiter. In all this terrible history there is nothing more remarkable than the boldness with
* 1 Philip and Mary, c. 6.
+ Strype gives the total for 1556 as eighty-nine; but in his local divisions of that year the aggregate is only eighty-three.
COMMISSION TO TRY PREACHERS AND HERETICS.
which the reproofs and scoffs of their judges were often met by defiance and contempt from learned and ignorant. These men knew that they were set upon a stage, to fight or to yield. There was only one of two courses open to them, to apostatise or to die. When they made up their minds to die, they were not likely to show any especial reverence to the persons, or the offices, of the chancellor or the bishop whom they knew to be the instigators of their persecution. The men of the conventicle in Bow Churchyard went to join many of the same minds in the Marshalsea, the Fleet, and the Clink; and Hooper, the deprived bishop of Gloucester, wrote to them from his own prison a letter of consolation, in which he says, "Dear brethren and sisters, continually fight the fight of the Lord. Your cause is most just and godly. . . . . The adversaries' weapons against you be nothing but flesh, blood, and tyranny.. Boldly withstand them, though it cost you the price of your life." * On the 22nd of January, the preachers who were in prison were brought up before Gardiner, the bishop of Winchester, and others, at the bishop's house in Southwark, and to the question whether they would become convert, having replied that they would stand to what they had taught, were committed to stricter confinement. Rogers, who had been a prebendary of St. Paul's, was one of these. Cardinal Pole, on the 23rd, exhorted the members of Convocation to repair to their cures, and there to win the people with gentleness, and not endeavour to overcome them by rigour. On the 25th, St. Andrew's day, there was a solemn procession of bishops and priests to St. Paul's to offer thanksgiving for their conversion to the catholic church; and the king was there, and the cardinal; and that day was ever afterwards to be celebrated as The Feast of the Reconciliation. But though Pole was probably sincere when he exhorted to gentleness instead of rigour, he left a little instrument in the hands of the bishop of Winchester, under which, as he might easily have anticipated, some rough work would be accomplished. On the 28th a commission, under the
authority of the cardinal legate, held its first sitting in the church of St. Mary Overies, to order, according to the laws, all such preachers and heretics as were in prison. Including Gardiner and Bonner, there were present thirteen bishops, and several noblemen and other lay commissioners.
They sat again on the 29th and 30th. On these occasions, there were no long scholastic disputations, as in the cases of Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley at Oxford. The mode of proceeding with Dr. Rowland Taylor, which he has himself recorded, was probably nearly the same with all. "First, my lord chancellor said, 'You among others are at this present time sent for, to enjoy the king's and queen's majesties' favour and mercy, if you will now rise again with us from the fall which we, generally, have received in this realm; from the which, God be thanked, we are now clearly delivered miraculously. If you will not rise with us now, and receive mercy now offered, you shall have judgment according to your demerit.' To this I answered, that so to rise should be the greatest fall that ever I could receive; for I should so fall from my dear Saviour Christ to Antichrist." There were then exhortations to submit, assuming various forms of reproach or solicitation, which were refused in no very measured terms. The colloquy between Gardiner and
Strype, vol. iii. part ii. pp. 275, 276.
HOOPER AND FOUR OTHERS CONDEMNED.
[1555. Rogers offers a characteristic example. "Gardiner said, it was vain-glory in him to stand out against the whole church. He protested it was his conscience, and not vain-glory, that swayed him; for his part, he would have nothing to do with the anti-christian church of Rome. Gardiner said, by that he condemned the queen, and the whole realm, to be of the church of Antichrist. Rogers said, the queen would have done well enough if it had not been for his counsel. Gardiner said, the queen went before them in those counsels, which proceeded of her own motion. Rogers said, he would never believe that. The bishop of Carlisle said, they could all bear him witness to it. Rogers said, they would all witness for one another." * On the first day of these scenes at St. Mary Overies, the proceedings were public, and a great crowd filled the church. On the other days the doors were shut. The boldness of such resolved men was a dangerous example. The commissioners abruptly terminated their immediate work, in the con demnation of Hooper, Rogers, Taylor, Saunders, and Bradford, who at the same time were excommunicated. The sentence upon Bradford was not executed till July. The fate of the other four was more quickly decided.
It has been truly observed by a judicious writer, that in the limited historical reading of young persons, "the horrors of this period have been suffered to hold too prominent a place."+ Minute details of physical suffering, even when they are associated with the heroic fortitude of the sufferers, had better be imagined than related. Yet it is impossible to pass over this momentous period of English history with any vague notice of the great battle that was then fought between Romanism and Protestantism. We must look upon the combatants in this unequal fight of conscience against power, as they present themselves in their individual actions and characters, to be enabled properly to appreciate their spiritual victory in their deepest degradation. Beautifully has it been said, "The firm endurance of sufferings by the martyrs of conscience, if it be rightly contemplated, is the most consolatory spectacle in the clouded life of man; far more ennobling and sublime than the outward victories of virtue, which must be partly won by weapons not her own, and are often the lot of her foulest foes. Magnanimity in enduring pain for the sake of conscience is not, indeed, an unerring mark of rectitude; but it is, of all other destinies, that which most exalts the sect or party whom it visits, and bestows on their story an undying command over the hearts of their fellow-men."
Fuller, in two of his suggestive sentences, has attempted to give the characteristics of the chief of the sufferers: "The same devotion had different looks in several martyrs; frowning in stern Hooper, weeping in meek Bradford, and smiling constantly in pleasant Taylor." § Again: "Of all the Marian martyrs, Mr. Philpot was the best-born gentleman; bishop Ridley the profoundest scholar; Mr. Bradford the holiest and devoutest man; archbishop Cranmer, of the mildest and meekest temper; bishop Hooper, of the sternest and austerest nature; Dr. Taylor had the merriest and pleasantest wit; Mr.
*Burnet, part ii. book ii. p. 301, abridged from Rogers' own narrative, in Fox.
Mackintosh, History, vol. ii. p. 327.
§ "Worthies of England," vol. ii. p. 328.
MARTYRDOM OF HOOPER.
Latimer had the plainest and simplest heart." * Let us first look at the stories of "stern Hooper" and "pleasant Taylor," to see how the same earnest convictions elevate the "austerest" and the "merriest" natures into equal sublimity and beauty. They suffered on the same day.
After Hooper's condemnation he was visited by Bonner and his chaplains, in Newgate, to persuade him to recant. The rumour went forth that the fear of death had prevailed over his constancy. Fox says that the persecuting bishop and his emissaries spread these rumours, to bring discredit on Hooper and his devotion. "What motive could Bonner and his chaplains have for spreading such a report ?" is confidently asked.† Hooper wrote a letter to rebut the rumour. He conversed and argued, he says, with the bishop and his chaplains, that he might not be accused of want of learning, or of pride; but that he was more than ever confirmed in the truth which he had preached. He sums up his letter in these solemn words: "I have taught the truth with my tongue, and with my pen, heretofore; and hereafter shortly shall confirm the same, by God's grace, with my blood." Hooper, with his fellow-convict Rogers, underwent together the ceremony of degradation on the 4th of February. Rogers went to the stake at Smithfield. Hooper was sent to his former episcopal city of Gloucester, where he arrived after a ride of three days. The mayor and aldermen of Gloucester received their once-honoured bishop with kindness. They could not forget that he had been the friend of the poor, whom he fed and taught daily in his hall. He was to have been lodged in the common gaol; but the men who had guarded him from London entreated that he might remain in a private house, for that he had deported himself so patiently on his way that a child might keep him. On the morning of the 9th he went forth to his execution. It was the market-day, and round the stake, fixed near a great elm-tree in front of the cathedral, many thousand persons were assembled. As he walked through the crowd, leaning upon a staff, he looked cheerfully upon those whom he knew; and as he heard the bitter laments of the people he lifted his eyes up to heaven. A pardon was offered him if he would recant; but he exclaimed, "If you love my soul, take it away." Raising his voice in prayer, the crowd was commanded back. When he was fastened by hoops of iron to the stake, he said the trouble was needless, for God would give him strength to abide the extremity of the fire without bands. His sufferings were of the most lingering nature; but he remained calm and still to the last; and whilst flames were slowly consuming him, died as quietly as a child in his bed.
Of all the heroes of the Reformation, Rowland Taylor is, to our minds, the most interesting, because the most natural. Of a hearty, bluff English nature, full of kindliness and pleasantry, he is perfectly unconscious of playing a great part in this terrible drama, and goes to his death as gaily as to a marriage-feast. Fuller says, that those "who admire the temper of sir Thomas More jesting with the axe of the executioner, will excuse our Taylor making himself merry with the stake." He has been compared to Socrates in his simplicity and jocularity, his affection for his friends, and his resolution to shrink from no danger rather than compromise the goodness of his cause.
• "Church History," book viii. part ii. "Historical Parallels," vol. iii. p. 272.
Dr. Maitlan 1, "Essays, ' p. 450.