Page images
PDF
EPUB

might have employed it better at home; that if a sinner repented heartily before God, he might be saved as well as if he had been shriven by a priest; and that as for the guidance which they could get from their priests, it was as if blind William Harper should be leading another blind man to Newbury,—they might both fall into the ditch.

These poor men, rather than be burnt alive for maintaining their opinions, (which was the alternative proposed to them,) confessed them to be contrary to the common doctrine and determination of the universal church; acknowledged themselves to have been learners and teachers of heresies, errors, opinions, and false doctrines, contrary to the Christian faith; and

Forasmuch,' they were made to say, “ as it is so that the laws of the Church of Christ and boly canons of saints be grounded in mercy, and God wol not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live ; and also the church closeth not her lap to him that wol return, we therefore, and every one of us, willing to be partiners of this foresaid mercy, forsake and renounce all these articles ; -and now contrite and fully repenting them all,-judicially and solemnly them forsake, abjure, and wilfully renounce for evermore ; and not only them, but all other heresies, errors, and damnable doctrines contrary to the determination of the universal church of Christ. Also that we shall never hereafter be to any such persons, or person, favorers, counsellors, maintainers, or of any such, privily or openly; but if we know any such hereafter, we and every one of us, shall denounce and disclose them to you Reverend Father in God, your successors, or officers of the same, or else to such persons of the church as hath jurisdiction on the persons so faulty, so help me God and all holy Evangels; submitting us, and every of us, openly, not coacte, but of our free will, to the pain, rigour, and sharpness of the law that a man relapsed ought to suffer in such case, if we, or any of us, ever do or hold contrary to this our abjuration in part, or the whole thereof.'

The record appears to have been imperfect, but it contains the sentence passed upon Augustine Stere in parte pænitentiæ suæ. Bare-headed, bare-legged, and bare-footed, in his shirt, cloak, and linen drawers, he was to do penance with a faggot on his shoulder, and a firebrand in his hand, at Windsor, Reading, Newbury, Salisbury, Cerne, Milton, Abbotsbury, Abingdon, and Sherburne, on market-days and Sundays, when there was the greatest concourse of people, before whom he was to read his abjuration, after having been marched in procession, as a public spectacle, in this plight. Every day of his life he was to repeat the Pater-noster and Ave Maria five times, and the Creed once, before the crucifix kneeling; and he was never to go to Newbury, (the place of his former residence,) nor to any place within seven miles of it, without the bishop's license. This, it must be remembered, was part

Y 2

only

only of his penance,--and this was the mercy of the Romish church.

A scene more painful to humanity, and yet more consolatory, was exhibited at Salisbury in the same reign, but whether it were under the same bishop is uncertain, the year not having been specified. Laurence Ghest was burnt alive in that city, after two years imprisonment, during which neither persuasions nor endeavours had been omitted for inducing him to profess that he believed as the church taught concerning transubstantiation. He is described as a tall and comely personage, having a wife and seven children, and not unfriended. His wife and children were brought to him at the stake that they might urge him to abjure his opinions, and preserve his life. In that case he must have been branded in the cheek, and have worn a faggot worked in his coat, to be a mark of infamy and suspicion as long as he lived; but even this alternative, his poor miserable wife, having the immediate prospect of seeing him suffer such a death before her eyes, intreated him to accept. He, however,' being firm in his purpose as in his faith, exhorted her to patience, and besought her not to be a block in his way, for he was in a good course, running toward the mark of his salvation;' and in that resolution he accomplished his sacrifice in the flames, bearing testimony to the truth. Well may our fine old church historian exhort us, when he winds up the story of our martyrs,' that we glorify God who had given such power unto men, in and for their patience; that we praise God that true doctrine at this day may be professed at an easier rate than in their age; and that we defend that doctrine which they sealed with their lives, and as occasion may be offered, vindicate and assert their memories from such scandalous tongues and pens as shall traduce them.'

While this martyr was in the flames, one of the bishop's men, in that ferocious spirit which such spectacles were sure to produce or foster in those who thought the punishment not more than the crime of heresy demanded, threw a firebrand at his face. The brother of the sufferer was present, and with his dagger would have killed the ruffian upon the spot, if he had not been withheld by others of the spectators. There are no subjects which could be treated with surer or finer effect by a painter, than those which the history of our own martyrs may supply,--none which could affect the heart more deeply, without bringing forward any of those revolting horrors, which neither the painter nor the poet who understands the true principles and scope of their respective arts will ever present to the eye or offer to the imagination. All that ought to be expressed, all that the most ambitious genius could hope to express, might be found in the situation of the martyr

himself

to

himself at the scene of his suffering and his triumph; of the friends and relatives, some of whom are there to confirm, and some in the miserable hope of shaking his purpose,--the spectators who are assembled either to have their secret faith confirmed, or their inhuman spirit of bigotry gratified by the sight; the official attendants, some of whom unwillingly perform their office, while their hearts belie the composure which they must needs assume; and lastly those who, though bearing an inferior part in the day's tragedy, are yet deserving of most pity, the unhappy persons who are brought there to bear a faggot, to be branded on the cheek, and to witness the perseverance, the agony, and the triumph of their fellow believers, whose frame of mind they envy, though they have not strength enough of body and of spirit to encounter the same terrible fate.

The persecution in Henry the Seventh's reign, and during the first years of his son's, served only to extend the opinions which it was designed to extinguish, and to hold forth the martyrs of that age as burning and shining lights to the next generation during the fiery trial through which the fathers and founders of our church were called upon pass.

The diocese of Sarum appears not to have been the scene of any such tragedies after Ghest's martyrdom till the Marian persecution. During ten of the intermediate years

the see was held by Cardinal Campeggio, one of those persons who, without acting any important part in history, hold a conspicuous place in it, by the accident of being employed in great and influential transactions. His reception, when he arrived in England for the first time as legate, is described by Wolsey in a letter, of which part only has been preserved. No visitor was ever received in a foreign country with greater honours. At Sandwich where he landed, he was met by the Bishop of Chichester and the nobles, knights, and gentlemen of Kent, and by them escorted to Canterbury miro ornatu, splendore incredibili, summaque cum celeritate et pompá. There the archbishop, the bishop of Rochester, and the abbot of St. Augustine's received him in the cathedral, and having sprinkled him with holy water, and fumigated him with incense, conducted him to the apartments prepared for him and his suite, where he remained two days, the chief persons of the country waiting on him, and bringing him presents. Some five hundred horse accompanied him to Sittingbourne, where they dined, after which they proceeded to the Abbey of the Holy Cross, and were there entertained for the night, the whole costs on the road being provided by Wolsey. The next day they found a splendid dinner ready for them at Rochester; after which the archbishop took them to one of his seats at a place called Hetford. There their train being increased to about a thousand horsemen, including many

Y 3

persons

persons of high rank, they proceeded toward London, and being met on Blackheath by the Bishop of Ely and the foreign ambassadors, were conducted to the king's Golden Tent, which had been pitched for this occasion about two miles from London. The first persons of the realm were waiting them there, and the legate then put on his pontificals, that his entrance might be made in due form. From St. George's to London-bridge the road was lined on either side by all the monks and friars of the metropolis and the adjacent parts, and a great multitude of secular clergy; the latter were in their richest vestments; no fewer than sixty crosses of gold or silver were displayed in the ranks as so many standards: they received him singing hymns propemodum divino ex more, and, reverencing him as he passed, fumigated him with frankincense, and sprinkled him with holy water. There were four thousand horsemen in his train, and the procession extended two miles in length. At the foot of London-bridge two prelates awaited him in their pontificals, and presented him some relics to kiss, and such salutes were then fired, ut multi aërem ipsum ruiturum opinarentur. With such honours Cardinal Campeggio made his first entrance into this kingdom, where his second coming was, in its consequence, to deprive him of his bishopric, and bring about our deliverance from the bondage of Papal superstition and priestcraft.

Shaxton was his successor, and the most honourable hour of his life was that in which he resigned the see rather than subscribe the law of the Six Articles—happy if his after-conduct had corresponded to this magnanimous and virtuous action. John Capon was then translated to Salisbury from Bangor, a timeserving and unprincipled man, who qualified himself for this promotion by assenting to those bloody articles; held it by conforming to, and feigning to approve the principles of the Reformation under Edward VI.;-and continued to hold it by becoming an actor in the Marian persecution. He sat in judgement upon Hooper; and at Newbury, says Fuller, 'he sent three martyrs to heaven in the same chariot of fire.' One of these was Julius Palmer, who having been so zealous a Romanist, that he incurred expulsion from Magdalen College in Edward's reign, was so impressed by witnessing the death of Latimer and Ridley, that he began to search the Scriptures in order to ascertain the ground of that faith for which they had been content to suffer; and the result of that search was that he acknowledged the truth, and bore witness to it in the same manner. Capon's chancellor, Dr. Geffery, was more violent in carrying on the persecution than the prelate himself. It is said that he did not wait for the legal niceties of calling in the aid of the secular arm, but, when

the

the point of heresy was proved, hurried his victims at once to the stake. This man was cut off by sudden death the very day before that on which he had appointed more than ninety persons to be examined by inquisition.

Upon Capon's death there was a contest between the pope and the queen concerning the next presentation. It was terminated by the happiest event for these kingdoms which it ever pleased God to dispense to them in his mercy, the death of Mary; an event of such transcendant importance to the Protestants, that it is recorded one man died of joy at the tidings, and another, being desperately diseased, was instantaneously restored to health. Elizabeth never made a worthier promotion than when she appointed Jewell to the vacant see. This excellent person had been qualified for such a station in such times, as well by the circumstances of his life, as by severe and methodized studies from his youth up. Parkhurst (afterwards Bishop of Norwich) whose portionist and pupil he was at Merton College, said of him at an early age, Surely Paul's Cross will one day ring of this boy!' It was his custom to begin his studies at four in the morning, and continue them till ten at night; his very recreations being studious, and his mind of that strength that it could bear continual tension, without losing its elasticity. His collections from what he read were digested so methodically, that the stores of his knowledge were always at command, but they were written in a short-hand of his own invention, which rendered them useless to others after his death; he had also, by some self-devised system of mnemonics, assisted his memory, which was by nature strong. Whosoever,' says Fuller, 'seriously considereth the high parts Mr. Jewell had in himself, and the high opinion others had of him, will conclude his fall necessary for his humiliation.' Jewell had shrunk from martyrdom; but when he had escaped beyond sea to a place of safety, he did not shrink from publicly confessing his contrition for having, in a moment of human infirmity, signed the Popish articles; he pronounced his recantation in the pulpit at Frankfort, and saying, “it was my abject and cowardly mind and my faint heart, that made my weak hand to commit this wickedness,' he asked pardon of God and of his church.

On Jewell's return to his own country, after the accession of Elizabeth, he was appointed one of the commissioners whom the

queen sent into different dioceses to root out superstition, and plant the religion of the Gospel in its stead. When the commission was discharged, he accepted, not without much reluctance, the see of Salisbury, often saying in the words of the Apostle—he who desireth a bishopric desireth a work.' А work, indeed, he made it, and literally spent his life in its per

Y 4

formance.

« PreviousContinue »