« PreviousContinue »
being in the country, writing among other things these words : “Be- Henry cause I would not be a whoremonger, or an unclean person, therefore I married a wife, with whom I have hidden myself in Devonshire, A.D.
1533. from the tyranny of the antichristians, these six years."
But, as every tree and herb hath its due time to bring forth its Why fruit, so did it appear by this man. For he, daily seeing the glory of married, God to be so blasphemed, idolatrous religion so embraced and maintained, and that most false usurped power of the bishop of Rome so extolled, was so grieved in conscience, and troubled in spirit, that he could not be quiet till he did utter his mind therein. Wherefore, His godly dealing privately with certain of his friends, he did plainly open and disclose how blasphemously and abominably God was dishonoured, his word contemned, and his people, whom he so dearly bought, were, by blind guides, carried headlong to everlasting damnation : and therefore he could no longer endure, but must needs, and would, utter their abominations; and for his own part, for the testimony of his conscience, and for the defence of God's true religion, would himself most patiently (as near as God would give him grace) to die and to shed his blood therein ; alleging that his death should be more profitable to the church of God, and for the edifying of his people, than his life should be. To whose persuasions when his friends had yielded, they promised to pray to God for him, that he might be strong in the cause, and continue a faithful soldier to the end : which done, he gave order for the bestowing of such books as he had, and very shortly after, in the month of October, he wrote his mind in certain scrolls of paper, which, in secret manner, he set upon the doors Benet of the cathedral church of the city; in which was written, “ The pope is Antichrist; and we ought to worship God only, and no saints.” against
These bills being found, there was no small ado, and no little search made for the inquiry of the heretic that should set up these bills : and the mayor and his officers were not so busy to make searches to find this heretic, but the bishop and all his doctors were as hot as coals, and enkindled as though they had been stung with a sort of wasps. Wherefore, to keep the people in their former blindness, order was taken that the doctors should in haste up to the pulpit every day, and confute this heresy. Nevertheless this Thomas Benet, keeping his own doings in secret, went the Sunday following to the cathedral church to the sermon, and by chance sat down by two men, who were the busiest in all the city in seeking and searching for this heretic; and they, beholding this Benet, said the one to the other, “Surely this fellow, by all likelihood, is the heretic that hath set up the bills, and it were good to examine him.” Never- Almost theless, when they had well beheld him, and saw the quiet and sober the behaviour of the man, his attentiveness to the preacher, his godliness in the church, being always occupied in his book, which was a Testament in the Latin tongue, they were astonied, and had no power to The speak unto him, but departed, and left him reading in his book. As teries a touching this point of Benet's behaviour in the church, I find the touching reports of some others a little to vary, and yet not much contrary taking.
setteth up bills
(1) Ut ne scortator aut immundus essem, uxorem duxi, cum qua bisce sex annis ab istorum
Henry one to the other. For in receiving the letters and writings of a cer
tain minister, who at the same time was present at the doing hereof A.D. in Exeter, thus I find moreover added, concerning the behaviour of 1533.
this Thomas Benet in the church.
At that time, saith he, as I remember, Dr. Moreman, Crispin, iriars in Caseley, with such others, bare the swinge there. Besides these, were Exeter. also preachers there, one Dr. Bascavild, an unlearned doctor, God
knoweth ; and one Dr. David, as well learned as he, both grey friars, and Doctor I-know-not-who, a black friar, not much inferior unto Moreover, there was one bachelor of divinity, a grey
friar Gregory named Gregory Basset, more learned indeed than they all, but as
blind and superstitious as he which was most ; which Gregory, not long before, was revolted from the way of righteousness, to the way of Belial: for in Bristol, saith the author, he lay in prison long, and was almost famished, for having a book of Martin Luther, called his Questions, which he a long time privily had studied, and for the teaching of youth a certain catechism. To be short, the brains of the canons and priests, the officers and commons of that city, were very earnestly busied, how, or by what means, such an enormous heretic, who had pricked up those bills, might be espied and known : but it was long first. At last, the priests found out a toy to curse him, whatsoever he were, with book, bell, and candle ; which curse at that day, seemed most fearful and terrible. The manner of the curse was after this sort.
One of the priests, apparelled all in white, ascended up into the
pulpit. The other rabblement, with certain of the two orders of nortean. friars, and certain superstitious monks of St. Nicholas' house standing whom.
round about, and the cross (as the custom was) being holden up with holy candles of wax fixed to the same, he began his sermon with this theme of Joshua, " There is blasphemy in the army;"' and so made a long protestation, but not so long as tedious and superstitious : and so concluded that that foul and abominable heretic who had put up such blasphemous bills, was, for that his blasphemy, damnably accursed ; and besought God, our lady, St. Peter, patron of that church, with all the holy company of martyrs, confessors, and virgins, that it might be known what heretic had put up such blasphemous bills, that God's people might avoid the vengeance.
The manner of the cursing of the said Benet was marvellous to behold, forasmuch as at that time there were few or none, unless shearman or two, whose houses, I well remember, were searched for bills at that time, and for books, that knew any thing of God's matters, or how God doth bless their curses in such cases. Then said the prelate thus :
The Pope's Curse, with Book, Bell, and Candle. By the authority of God the Father Almighty, and of the blessed Virgin Mary, of Saint Peter and Paul, and of the holy saints, we excommunicate, we utterly curse and ban, commit and deliver to the devil of hell, him or her, whatsoever he or she be, that hath,-in spite of God and of St. Peter, whose church this is, in spite of all holy saints, and in spite of our most holy father the pope, God's vicar here in earth, and in spite of the reverend father in God, John our diocesan, and the worshipful canons, masters, and priests, and clerks,
(1) ' Est blasphemia in castris.'
The priests curse,
Here is charity sold.
who serve God daily in this cathedral church,-fixed up with wax such cursed Henry and heretical bills, full of blasphemy, upon the doors of this and other holy VIII churches within this city. Excommunicated plainly be he or she plenally, or A.D. they, and delivered over to the devil
, as perpetual malefactors and schismatics. 1533. Accursed may they be, and given body and soul to the devil. Cursed be they, he or she, in cities and towns, in fields, in ways, in paths, in houses, out of houses, and in all other places, standing, lying, or rising, walking, running, waking, sleeping, eating, drinking, and whatsoever thing they do besides. We separate them, him or her, from the threshold, and from all the good prayers of the church; from the participation of the holy mass; from all sacraments, chapels, and altars; from holy bread and holy water; from all the merits of God's priests and religious men, and from all their cloisters; from all their pardons, privileges, grants, and immunities, which all the holy fathers, popes of Rome, have granted to them; and we give them over utterly to the power of the fiend: and let us quench their souls, if they be dead, this night in the pains of hell-fire, as this candle is now quenched and put out (and with that he put out one of the candles): and let us pray to God, if they be alive, that Mark the their eyes may be put out, as this candle light is (so he put out the other apish candle); and let us pray to God and to our lady, and to St. Peter and Paul, of these and all holy saints, that all the senses of their bodies may fail them, and that popelings. they may have no feeling, as now the light of this candle is gone (and so he put out the third candle) except they, he or she, come openly now and confess their blasphemy, and by repentance, as much as in them shall lie, make satisfaction unto God, our lady, St. Peter, and the worshipful company of this cathedral church : and as this holy cross-staff now falleth down, so may they, except they repent and show themselves.
Here, one first taking away the cross, the staff fell down. But Lord! what a shout and noise was there ; what terrible fear; what holding up of hands to heaven : that curse was so terrible !
Now this fond foolish fantasy and mockery being done and played, Benet which was to a christian heart a thing ridiculous, Benet could no le their longer forbear, but fell to great laughter, but within himself, and for cursing. a great space could not cease; by which thing the poor man was espied. For those that were next to him, wondering at that great curse, and believing that it could not but light on one or other, asked good Benet, for what cause he should so laugh. “My friends," said he, “who can forbear, seeing such merry conceits and interludes played by the priests ?” Straightway a noise was made, Here is the heretic ! here is the heretic ! hold him fast, hold him fast! With that, there was a great confusion of voices, and much clapping of hands, and yet they were uncertain whether he were the heretic or Some
the same he was taken and apprehended. Others report, that his enemies, being uncertain of him, departed, and so he went home to his house ; where he, being not able to digest the lies there preached, renewed his former bills, and caused his boy, early in the morning following, to set the said bills upon the gates of the churchvard. As the boy was setting one of the said Benet is bills upon a gate, called The little Stile, it chanced that one means op W. S., going to the cathedral church to hear a mass, called Barton's
setting up Mass, which was then daily said about five o'clock in the morning, bis bills. found the boy at the gate, and asking him whose boy he was, did charge him to be the heretic that had set up the bills upon the gates: wherefore, pulling down the bill, he brought the same, together with the boy, before the mayor of the city; and thereupon Benet, being known and taken, was violently committed to ward.
(1) Bless and curse not,' saith the Lord : 'curse and bless not,' saith the pope.
fesseth the cause
Benet sent to the
On the morrow began both the canons and the heads of the city
joined with them, to fall to examination ; with whom, for that day, he A.D. had not much communication, but confessed and said to them, “ It was 1533
even I that put up those bills; and if it were to do, I would yet do He con- it again; for in them I have written nothing but what is very truth.”
“ Couldst not thou,” said they, as well have declared thy mind by set them mouth, as by putting up bills of blasphemy?" "No," said he, “I
put up the bills, that many should read and hear what abominable blasphemers ye are, and that they might the better know your Antichrist, the pope, to be that boar out of the wood, which destroyeth and throweth down the hedges of God's church ; for if I had been heard to speak but one word, I should have been clapped fast in prison, and the matter of God hidden. But now I trust more of your blasphemous doings will thereby be opened and come to light for God will so have it, and no longer will suffer you.”
The next day after, he was sent unto the bishop, who first com
mitted him to prison, called “The Bishop's Prison,' where he was prison. kept in stocks and strong irons, with as much favour as a dog should
find. Then the bishop, associating unto him one Dr. Brewer, his
chancellor, and other of his lewd clergy and friars, began to examine Articles him and burden him, that, contrary to the catholic faith, he denied
praying to the saints, and also denied the supremacy of the pope. Whereunto he answered in such sober manner, and so learnedly proved and defended his assertions, that he did not only confound and put to silence his adversaries, but also brought them in great admiration of him ; the most part having pity and compassion on him. The friars took great pains with him to persuade him from his erroneous opinions, to recant and acknowledge his fault, touching the bills; but they did but dig after day; for God had appointed him to be a blessed witness of his holy name, and to be at defiance with all their false persuasions.
To declare here with what cruelty the officers searched his house for bills and books, how cruelly and shamefully they handled his wife, charging her with divers enormities, it were too long to write. But she, like a good woman, took all things patiently that they did unto her; lik as in other things she was contented to bear the cross with him, as to fare hardly with him at home, and to live with coarse meat and drink, that they might be the more able somewhat to help the poor, as they did to the uttermost of their power.
Amongst all other priests and friars, Gregory Basset was most busy with him. This Gregory Basset, as is partly touched before,
was learned, and had a pleasant tongue, and not long before was Gregory fallen from the truth, for which he was imprisoned in Bristol a long
time; at whose examination was ordained a great pan of fire, where Bristol; his holy brethren (as the report went abroad) menaced him to burn pelled by his hands off: whereupon he there before them recanted, and became to recant, afterwards a mortal enemy to the truth all his life. This Gregory,
as it is said, was fervent with the poor man, to please the canons of that church, and marvellously tormented his brains, how to turn him from his opinions; yea, and he was so diligent and fervent with him, that he would not depart the prison, but lay there night and day, who notwithstandiug lost his labour: for good Benet was at a point
Basset in prison at
Busy against Thomas Benet.
not to deny Christ before men. So Gregory, as well as the other Henry holy fathers, lost his spurs, insomuch that he said in open audience, that there was never so obstinate a heretic.
1533. The Matter between Gregory Basset and Thomas Benet. The principal point between Basset and Beuet was touching the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, whom in his bills he named Antichrist, the Thief, the Mercenary, and the Murderer of Christ's Flock : and these disputations lasted about eight days, where, at sundry times, repaired to him both the black and grey friars, with priests and monks of that city. They that had some learning persuaded him to believe the church, and showed by what tokens she is known. The others unlearned railed, and said that the devil tempted him, and spat Railing upon him, calling him herotic; who prayed God to give them a better mind, against and to forgive them : ' For,' said he, • I will rather die, than worship such a beast, the very whore of Babylon, and a false usurper, as manifestly it doth appear by his doings. They asked, What he did, that he had not power and authority to do, being God's vicar? He doth,' quoth he, 'sell the sacraments The of the church for money, he selleth remission of sins daily for money, and so abuses of do you likewise : for there is no day but ye say divers masses for souls in to be feigned purgatory: yea, and ye spare not to make lying sermons to the people, noted. to maintain your false traditions and foul gains. The whole world doth begin
Selling of now to note your doings, to your utter confusion and shame.'
· The shame,' say they, 'shall be to thee, and such as thou art, thou foul heretic! Wilt thou allow nothing done in holy church? what a perverse heretic art thou !' •I am,' said he, no heretic, but a christian man, I thank Christ; and with all my heart will allow all things done and used in the church to the glory of God, and edifying of my soul: but
: but I see nothing in your church, but what main- The taineth the devil. • What is our church ?' said they. • It is not my church,' pope's quoth Benet, ' God give me grace to be of a better church, for verily your painted church is the plain church of Antichrist, the malignant church, the second in her church, a den of thieves, and an awmbry of poison, and as far wide from the colours. true, universal, and apostolic church, as heaven is distant from the earth.'
• Dost not thou think,' said they, ' that we pertain to the universal church ?' • Yes,' quoth he, but as dead members, unto whom the church is not beneficial; for your works are the devices of man, and your church a weak foundation : for ye say and preach that the pope's word is equal with God's word in every degree.' Why,' said they, did not Christ say to Peter, To thee I will The keys give the keys of the kingdom of heaven ? · He said that,' quoth he, to all, given to as well as to Peter; and Peter had no more authority given to him than they, apostles. or else the churches planted in every kingdom by their preaching are no churches. Doth not St. Paul say, Upon the foundations of the apostles and prophets ?.. Therefore I say plainly, that the church that is built upon a man, The is the devil's church or congregation, and not God's. And as every church this church day is appointed to be ruled by a bishop or pastor, ordained by the word of builded God in preaching and administration of the sacraments under the prince, man, is the supreme governor under God, so, to say that all the churches with their the devil's princes and governors be subject unto one bishop, is detestable heresy; and the pope, your god, challenging this power to himself, is the greatest schismatic that ever was in the church, and the most foul whore; of whom John, in the Revelation, speaketh.'
'() thou blind and unlearned fool !' said they, “is not the confession and Consent consent of all the world, as we confess and consent—That the pope's holiness of the is the supreme head and vicar of Christ? That is,' said Benet, because they are blinded and know not the Scriptures : but if God would of his mercy open the eyes of princes to know their office, his false supremacy would soon decay.' "We think,' said they, thou art so malicious, that thou wilt confess no church.' * Look !' said he,' where they are that confess the true name of Jesus Christ ; and where Christ only is the head, and under him the prince of the realm, to order all bishops, ministers, and preachers, and to see them do their duties in setting forth the only glory of God by preaching the word of God; and where it is preached that Christ is our only Advocate, Mediator, and Patron before God lis Father, making intercession for us; and where the true faith and con
Where the true church is.