Page images

then, as in earlier and later councils, were effectually baffled by the intrigues of papal policy. Hallam died shortly after this decision, and was buried in the cathedral of Constance with such honours as have seldom been paid to any one in a foreign land, the Emperor, the princes, the cardinals, and all the clergy attending his funeral. If this English prelate was well qualified both by his ability and moderation for the service in which he was employed, the Castilians had among their representatives a person

a not less eminently endowed with another qualification, less episcopal indeed, but which he found occasion to display at the

expense of one of the English ambassadors. The Englishman happened to be diminutive in stature, whereas the Spaniard, D. Diego de Anaya, bishop of Cuenca, was a person of great bodily strength, in whose hands a battle-axe would have seemed more appropriate than a crosier. These persons one day disputed at the council for precedency, high words ensued, and the bishop put an end to the contest by taking his adversary round the waist, carrying him like a child to the lower end of the church, and then throwing him into an open grave. Well pleased with what he had done, and yet not satisfied with it, as soon as he had returned to his place he said to his colleague, D. Martin Fernandes de Cordova, • As a priest I have just committed the ambassador of England to the dust. See you to what remains as an hidalgo and a knight! This bishop might have been characteristically employed in smiting the Moors for the love of charity; but as a person who was to partake the gift of infallibility, and receive his part of that inspiration by which the errors of the Christian church were to be rectified and its troubles composed, he seems to have been oddly chosen.

Bishop Hallam's mission to Constance is remarkable in literary history, inasmuch as the first dramatic piece which is known to have been exhibited in Germany, was represented under the direction of him and his colleagues, by the persons of their retinue, before the Emperor. It was a Mystery, comprizing the various events of the nativity, the arrival of the wise men of the East, and the massacre of the Innocents. This was fourscore

years before Reuchlen's Latin imitation of the farce of Patheline, which hạş been supposed to be the first dramatic exhibition in Germany, was represented at Heidelberg.

William Aiscough, the third bishop in succession after Hallam, was one of the victims who perished in Jack Cade's insurrection, The populace at that time broke loose in many parts of the kingdom, and this prelate, then residing at Eddington in Wiltshire, was dragged from the high altar of that collegiate church when he was celebrating mass, and murdered. The cause




[ocr errors]

of his unpopularity is said to have been, that, being clerk of the council and confessor to the king, he was so much occupied about the court as to neglect his see. Lionel Woodville, his second successor, died more pitiably of a broken heart. This member of a conspicuous and unhappy family was brother to Edward the Fourth's queen, the most unfortunate in English history. His fortunes (being a churchman) were not overthrown in the wreck of that family, but he was unable to bear up against such repeated and cruel bereavements, and when Buckingham, who had married one of his sisters, was beheaded in the market-place at Salisbury, the bishop did not long survive the grief of this last affliction. His successor, Thomas Langton, was a man for whom it had been better if he had lived earlier or later, before the principles by which the Reformation was brought about began to work in this country, or after that great and happy change had been effected. For with a disposition to employ his wealth munificently and beneficially in adorning his churches, and in the encouragement of literature, we find him bearing a part, whether willingly or not, in the prevailing system of persecution. Allix, one of the many eminent men who have been beneficed in that cathedral, has

preserved, from an old register, the abjuration of six persons' greatly noted, defamed, and detected' for heretics in the diocese of Sarum, made before the bishop as their ordinary and judge, and the sentence which he past upon Augustine Stere, who appears to have been considered the most guilty. The said Augustine had said, that the church was made a synagogue and a house of merchandize, and that the priests were but scribes and pharisees, not profiting the Christian people, but deceiving them. He had denied that the very body of our Lord was in the wafer, and had, moreover, said that the priests might buy thirty such gods for one penny, and would not sell one of them under two-pence. Harry Bennet, another of these unlucky men, confessed that he had not stedfastly believed in the sacrament of the altar, and had justified his unbelief by this argument, that if there were three hosts in one pix, one of them having been consecrated, and the others not, a mouse would just as readily eat the transubstantiated wafer as those which were mere flour and water, which he thought the mouse could not possibly have done if the actual body of our Saviour had been there. Gage, the Dominican, tells us that an accident of this kind which he witnessed, led him first to doubt the truth of this monstrous doctrine, and, finally, to withdraw from the Romish church. The illustration, however, was commonly used among the early reformers, and afforded them an argument which it was easier to silence by faggot and fire, than to confute. He maintained also that those persons who spent their money in performing pilgrimages

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

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 holy 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 everinore ; 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,

we, or any


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 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 persons

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 pompa. 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

« PreviousContinue »