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BISHOP OF OSSORY.
JOHN BALE was born in 1495, at Cove, a small village near Dunwich, in Suffolk. At twelve years of age he was entered in the monastery of Carmelites at Norwich, and from thence went to Jesus College, in Cambridge. While a papist he was very zealous for that way of religion. He says, “I wandered in utter ignorance of mind both at Norwich and Cambridge, having no tutor or patron, till the word of God showing forth, the churches began to return to the true fountain of true divinity. In which bright rising of the New Jerusalem, being not called by any monk or priest, but seriously stirred up by the illustrious the lord Wentworth, as by that centurion who declared Christ to be the Son of God, I presently saw and acknowledged my own deformity; and immediately, through the divine goodness, I was removed from a barren mountain, to the flowery and fertile valley of the gospel, where I found all things built, not on the sand, but on a solid rock.”
Bale openly showed his renunciation of the errors of popery by marrying.
He soon became an object of hatred to the Romish clergy, but was protected by lord Cromwell. The confession of William Broman, accused of heresy in 1536, states, that “one Bale, a white (or Carmelite) friar, sometime prior of Doncaster, taught him about three years ago, that Christ would dwell in no church that was made of lime and stones by men’s hands, but only in heaven above, and in men’s hearts in earth.” Strype also relates that Bale was a zealous decrier of the papal supremacy and worship between 1530 and 1540; adding, “Sometimes we find him in the north, where Lee, the archbishop, imprisoned him, and sometimes in the south, where Stokesly, bishop of London, met with him. At Cromwell’s death he thought it not safe for him to abide any longer in England, especially as persecution grew so hot upon the six articles; so he, with his wife and family, went beyond sea, and tarried in Germany eight years.”
During Bale’s abode on the continent he wrote several of his works, particularly his elucidation of the martyrdom of Anne Askew. He says, “I have expelled myself for ever from mine own native country, kindred, friends, and acquaintance, which are the great delights of this life, and am well contented, for Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the comfort of my brethren there, to suffer poverty, penury, abjection, reproof, and all that comes besides.”
After Edward VI had succeeded to the throne, Bale was recalled to England, and presented to the living of Bishop’s Stoke, in Hampshire. In 1552 he was nominated to the bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland. The circumstanccs attending this appointment are related by himself as follows: “Upon the 15th day of August, A.D. 1552, being the first day of my deliverance, as God would, from a dangerous ague, which had holden me long afore; in rejoicing that his majesty was come in progress to Southampton, which was five miles from my parsonage of Bishop’s Stoke, within the same county, I took my horse about ten of the clock, for very weakness scarce able to sit on him, and so came thither. Betwixt two and three of the clock the same day, I drew towards the place where his majesty was, and stood in the open street right against the gallery. Anon my friend, John Philpot, a gentleman, and one of the king’s privy-chamber, called unto him two more of his companions, who, in moving their heads towards me, showed me most friendly countenances. By one of these the king having information that I was there in the street, he marveled thereof, for it had been told him a little afore that I was both dead and buried. With that his grace came to the window, and earnestly beheld me, a poor weak creature, as though he had had upon me, so simple, a subject, an earnest regard, or rather a very fatherly care. “In the very same instant, as I have been since that time credibly informed, his grace called unto him the lords of his most honorable council, so many as were then present, willing them, to appoint me to the bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland. Whereunto they all agreeably consenting, commanded the letters of my first calling thereunto to be written and sent me. The next day, the 16th of August, they very favorably subscribed the same.
Thus was I called, in a manner from death, to this office; without my expectation, or yet knowledge thereof. And thus have ye my vocation to the bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland. I pass over my earnest refusal thereof, a month after that, on the king’s majesty’s return to Winchester; where, as I alleged (as I then thought) my lawful impediments, of poverty, age, and sickness, within the bishop’s house there; but they were not accepted. Then resorted I to the court at London, within six weeks: after, according to the tenor of the aforesaid letter; and within six days had all things performed pertaining to my election and full confirmation, freely without any manner of charges or expenses, whereof I much marveled. “On the 19th day of December I took my journey from Bishop’s Stoke with my hooks and stuff towards Bristol, where I tarried twenty-six days for passage, and divers times preached in that worshipful city, at the instant desire of the citizens. Upon the 21st day of January we entered into the ship; I, my wife, and one servant: and, being but two nights and two days upon the sea, so merciful was the Lord unto us, we arrived most prosperously at Waterford, in the coldest time of the year, “In beholding the face and order of that city, I saw many abominable idolatries maintained by the priests for their worldly interests. The communion or supper of the Lord was there altogether used like a popish mass, with the old apish toys of antichrist, in bowings and beckonings, kneelings and knockings, the Lord’s death, after St. Paul’s doctrine, neither preached nor yet spoken of. There wailed they over the dead with prodigious howlings and patterings, as though their souls had not been quieted in Christ and redeemed by his passion, but that they must come after and help at a pinch with requiem eternam, to deliver them out of hell by their sorrowful sorceries. When I had beholden these heathenish behaviors, I said to a senator of that city, that I well perceived that Christ had there no bishop, neither yet the king’s majesty of England any faithful officer of the mayor, in suffering such horrible blasphemies. The next day after, I rode towards Dublin, and rested the night following in a town called Knocktover, in the house of master Adam Walshe, my general commissary for the whole diocese of Ossory. “At supper the parish priest, called sir Philip, was very serviceable, and, in familiar talk, described unto me the house of the white friars, which sometime was in that town: concluding in the end, that the last prior thereof, called William, was his natural father. I asked him, if that were in marriage? He made me answer, No. For that was, he said, against his profession. Then counseled I him, that he never should boast of it more. Why, saith he, it is an honor in this land to have a spiritual man, as a bishop, an abbot, a monk, a friar, or a priest, to father. With that I greatly marveled, not so much of his unshamefaced talk, as I did that adultery, forbidden of God, and of all honest men detested, should there have both praise and preferment, thinking in process, for my part, to reform it. I came at the last to Dublin, where I found my companion Hugh Goodacre, archbishop of Armagh elect, and my old friend, David Cooper, parson of Calan. Much people greatly rejoiced at our coming thither, thinking, by our preachings, the pope’s superstitions would diminish, and true christian religion increase.”
Some difficulties were thrown in the way of the bishop’s consecration, by the papists, who wished that it should have been according to the Romish ritual; but Bale firmly opposing this, the ceremonial as lately directed by king Edward, was used.
Bishop Bale endeavored earnestly to fulfill the duties of his new charge, but met with much opposition from the papists. It is described by himself in his work entitled, “The Vocation of John Bale to the bishopric of Ossory, in Ireland; his persecutions in the same, and his final deliverance,” which presents a painful delineation of the state of Ireland at that period.
Bale proceeds: “Within two days after my consecration was I sick again, so that no man thought I should live; which malady held me till after Easter.
Yet, in the meantime, I found a way to be brought to Kilkenny, where I preached every Sunday and holyday in Lent, till the Sunday after Easter was fully past, never feeling any manner of grief of my sickness for the time I was in the pulpit; whereat many men, and myself also, greatly marveled.
Neither had I, for all that time space, any mind to call for any temporal profits, which was afterwards to my no small hindrance. From that day of my consecration I traded with myself, by all possibility, to set forth that doctrine which God charged his church with ever since the beginning; and thought therewith in my mind also that I had rather that Etna should swallow me up, than to maintain those ways in religion which might corrupt the same. For my daily desire is, in that everlasting school to behold the eternal Son of God, both here and after this life; and not only to see the fathers, prophets, and apostles therein, but also, for love of that doctrine, to enjoy their blessed fellowship hereafter. And so much the rather I acted thus with myself, that I saw then the king’s majesty, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the honorable lords of the council, so fervently bent that way, as to seek the people’s health in the same. I thought it thereupon no less than my bound duty to show myself faithful, studious, and diligent in that so chargeful a function. “My first proceedings in that doing were these: I earnestly exhorted the people to repentance for sin, and required them to give credit to the gospel of salvation. To acknowledge and believe that there is but one God; and him alone, without any other, sincerely to worship. To confess one Christ for an only Savior and Redeemer, and to trust in none other men’s prayers, merits, nor yet descryings, but in his alone, for salvation. I treated at large both of the heavenly and political state of the christian church; and helpers I found none among my prebendaries and clergy, but adversaries a great number. “I preached the gospel of the knowledge and right invocation of God; I maintained the political order by doctrine, and moved the commons always to obey their magistrates. But when I once sought to destroy the idolatries, and dissolve the hypocrites’ yokes, then followed angers, slanders, conspiracies, and, in the end, the slaughter of men. Much ado I had with the priests; for that I had said among other, that the white gods of their making, such as they offered to the people to be worshipped, F136 were no gods, but idols; and that their prayers for the dead procured no redemption to the souls departed, redemption of souls being only in Christ, of Christ, and by Christ. I added, that their office, by Christ’s strait commandment, was chiefly to preach and instruct the people in the doctrine and ways of God, and not to occupy so much of the time in chanting, piping, and singing. Much were the priests offended also for that I, in my preachings, willed them to have wives of their own, and to leave their unshamefaced doings. But hear what answer they made me always, yea, the most vicious men among them: ‘What! should we marry,’ said they, ‘for half a year, and so lose our livings?’ Think ye not that these men were inspired? either yet had knowledge of some secret mischief working in England? I, for my part, have not a little since that time marveled when it hath fallen to my remembrance. Well, the truth is, I could never yet, by any godly or honest persuasion, bring any of them to marriage, neither yet cause them which were known for unshamefaced life, to leave their abominable conduct, though I most earnestly labored it. “The Lord, therefore, of his mercy, send discipline with doctrine into his church. For doctrine without discipline, and restraint of vices, maketh dissolute hearers. And, on the other side, discipline without doctrine maketh either hypocrites or else desperate doers. I have not written this in dispraise of all the priests of Kilkenny or thereabout; for my hope is that some of them by this time are fallen to repentance, though not many. “In the week after Easter, when I had preached twelve sermons among them, and established the people, as I thought, in the doctrine of repentance and necessary belief of the gospel; in the true worshipping of one God, our eternal Father, and no more; and in that hope of one Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and no more; I departed from Kilkenny to another place of mine, five miles off, called Holme’s Court, where I remained till the Ascension day. In the mean time came sorrowful news unto me that M. Hugh Goodacre, the archbishop of Armagh, that godly preacher and virtuous learned man, was poisoned at Dublin, by procurement of certain priests of his diocese, for preaching God’s verity, and rebuking their common vices. And letters by and by were directed unto me, by my special friends from thence, to be aware of the like in my diocese of Ossory; which made me peradventure more circumspect than I should have been. Upon the Ascension day I preached again at Kilkenny, likewise on Trinity Sunday, and on St.
Peter’s day at Midsummer. “On the 25th of July, the priests were as pleasantly disposed as might be, and went by heaps from tavern to tavern, to seek the best Rob Davie and Aqua Vitae, which are their special drinks there.
They caused all their cups to be filled in with Gaudeamus in dolio, the mystery thereof only known to them, and at that time to none other else. — Which was, that king Edward was dead, and that they were in hope to have up their masking masses again. As we have in St. John’s Revelation, That they which dwell on the earth (as do our earthly-minded massmongers) should rejoice and be glad when God’s true witnesses were once taken away, and should send gifts one to another for gladness, because they rebuked them of their wicked doings, Revelation 11. For ye must consider that the priests are commonly the first that receive such news. The next day following, a very wicked justice, called Thomas Hoth, with the lord Mountgarret, resorted to the cathedral church, requiring to have a communion in the honor of St. Anne. The priests made him answer, that I had forbidden that celebration, saving only upon the Sundays; as I had, indeed, for the abominable idolatries that I had seen therein. ‘I discharge you,’ saith he, ‘of obedience to your bishop in this point, and command you to do as ye have done heretofore;’ — which was, to make of Christ’s holy communion an idolatrous mass, and to suffer it to serve for the dead, clean contrary to the christian use of the same. “Thus was the wicked justice not only a violator of Christ’s institution, but also a contemner of his prince’s earnest commandment, and a provoker of the people, by his ungracious example, to do the like. This could he do, with other mischiefs more, by his long being there by a whole month’s space; but for murders, thefts, idolatries, and abominable licentiousness, where withal that nation abounded, for that time he sought no redress, neither appointed any correction. The priests thus rejoicing thai; the king was dead, and that they had been that day confirmed in their superstitious obstinacy, resorted to the aforesaid false justice the same night at supper, to gratify him with Rob Davie and Aqua Vitae, for that he had been so friendly unto them, and that he might still continue in the same. The next day after was the lady Jane Guildford proclaimed their queen, with solemnity of processions, bonfires, and banquets; the said justice, as I was informed, sore blaming me for my absence that day; for, indeed, I much doubted that matter. “So soon as it was there rumored abroad that the king was departed from this life, the ruffians of that wild nation not only rebelled against the English captains, as their custom in such changes hath been always, chiefly no English deputy being within the land, but also they conspired the very deaths of so many English men and women as were left therein alive; minding, as they then stoutly boasted it, to have set up a king of their own. And, to cause their wild people to bear the more hate to our nation, very subtlely, but yet falsely, they caused it to be noised over all, that the young earl of Ormond, and Barnaby, the chief of Upper Ossory’s son, were both slain in the court at London. Upon this wily practice of mischief, they raged without order in all places, and assaulted the English forts every where. And at one of them, by a subtle train, they got out nine of our men, and slew them. “On the 13th of August a gentlewoman, the wife of Matthew King, having a castle not far off, her husband then being at London, fled with her family and goods in carts towards the foresaid Kilkenny; and in the highway was spoiled of all, to her very petticoat, by the kerns and the gallowglasses of the fore-named chief of Upper Ossory, Michael Patrick, and of the lord Mountgarret, who ought rather to have defended her. In this outrage had she, after long conflict with those enemies, four of her company slain, besides other mischiefs more. “On the 20th day of August was the lady Mary with us at Kilkenny proclaimed queen of England, France, and Ireland, with the greatest solemnity that there could be devised, of processions, musters, and disguisings, all the noble captains and gentlemen thereabout being present. What ado I had that day with the prebendaries and priests about wearing the cope, crosier, and mitre in procession, it were too much to write! “I told them earnestly, when they would have compelled me thereunto, that I was not Moses’s minister, but Christ’s; I desired them not to compel me to his denial, which is, St. Paul saith, in the repeating of Moses’s sacraments and ceremonial shadows, Galatians 5. With that I took Christ’s testament in my hand, and went to the Market Cross, the people in great number following.
There took I Romans 13, declaring to them briefly what the authority was of the worldly powers and magistrates, what reverence and obedience were due to the same. In the mean time the prelates had got two disguised priests, one to bear the mitre afore me, and another the crosier, making three procession pageants of one. The young men, in the forenoon, played a tragedy of God’s promises in the old law, at the Market Cross, with organplayings, and songs very aptly. In the afternoon again they played a comedy of Saint John Baptist’s preachings, of Christ’s baptizing, and of his temptation in the wilderness, to the small contentation of the priests and other papists there. F137 “On the thursday next following, which was St. Bartholomew’s day, I preached again among them, because the prebendaries and other priests there had made their boasts that I should be compelled to recant all that I had preached afore; and, as I was entered into the pulpit, I took this saying of St. Paul for my theme: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel.’ And why? ‘For it is the power of God unto salvation, to all them that believe it,’ Romans 1. Then declared I unto them all that I had taught there since my first coming thither, the justice Hoth being present; as, That our God was but one God, and ought alone to be worshipped; and that our Christ was but one Christ, and ought alone to be trusted to for our redemption from sin. I earnestly charged the people to rest upon these two principles firmly, as they would answer it at the dreadful day, and not to suffer themselves to be led, by a contrarious doctrine of deceitful teachers, into any other belief from thenceforth. Also, concerning the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, wherein they had been most prodigiously abused, through the unsatiable covetousness of the priests, I required them very reverently to take it, as a sacrament only of Christ’s death, whereby we are redeemed, and made innocent members of his mystical body, and not to worship it as their god, as they had done, to the utter derogation of his heavenly honor. And, as I came in the usual prayer to remembrance of the dead, I willed them to give hearty thanks to God for their redemption in Christ, largely declaring, that the souls of the righteous were in the hand of his mercy, without cruel torment, and that the priests, with all their masses and funeral exequies, could add nothing to their redemption, if they had been otherwise bestowed. “After the prayer, I took the gospel of the day, Blessed are the eyes that see what ye behold, Luke 10, wherein I was occasioned to speak of certain degrees of men, as of kings, prophets, lawyers, justiciaries, and so forth: As, that the kings were desirous to see Christ, the prophets to embrace him, the swelling lawyers to rise up against him and to tempt him, and the ambitious justiciaries to toy with him and to mock him. The wounded mart to have need of him, the priest to show no compassion, the Levite to minister no mercy, and, last of all, the contemned Samaritan to exercise all the offices of pity, love, benevolence, and liberal mercy, upon the same wounded creature; as, to resort to him, favorably to see him, with leisure to behold him, to have compassion on him, to bind up his wounds, to pour in oil and. wine, to set him on his own beast, to bring him to a place of comfort; finally, to succor him, and to pay his whole charges. “The same day, I dined with the mayor of the town, whom they name their sovereign, called Robert Shea, a man sober, wise, and godly, which is a rare thing in that land. In the end of. our dinner, certain priests resorted, and began very hotly to dispute with me concerning their purgatory and suffrages for the dead. And as I had alleged the scriptures proving Christ’s sufficiency for the soul’s discharge before God, without their dirty deservings, they brought forth, as seemed to them, contrary allegations, ‘that there should appear no truth in those scriptures, As St. Paul prophesied of them, Romans 1. That such as they were, should seek to turn the verity of God into a lie. And when I had once deprehended them in that thievery, and agreed both our alleged scriptures, to the maintenance of my first principle, to their manifest reproach, I demanded of them, what a christian man’s office was, when such a scripture was uttered as neither man nor angel was able to deny any truth thereof? But they made me no answer. Then said I unto them, ‘Ye have set me forth a new lesson, and taught me this day to know a good man from a hypocrite, and to discern a true christian from a wicked papist. The good man,’ said I, ‘believeth a truth in the scriptures, the hypocrite denieth it, the christian embraceth it, the papist doubteth and disputeth against it; as the devil in the wilderness with Christ, when he sought by one scripture to confound another.’ “The next day I departed from thence, and went home with my company to Holme’s Court again. Where as I had knowledge, the next day following, that the priests of my diocese, specially one sir Richard Routh, treasurer of the church of Kilkenny, and one sir James Joyce, a familiar chaplain of mine, by the help of one Barnaby Bolgar, my next neighbor and my tenant, at the said Holme’s Court, had hired certain kerns of the lord Mountgarret, and of the baron of Upper Ossory, whom they knew to be most desperate thieves and murderers, to slay me. And I am in full belief, that this was not without all their knowledge also; for so much as they were so desirous of my lands in diverse quarters, and could neither obtain them by their own importunate suits, nor yet by the friendship of others. “On the thursday after, which was the last day of August, I being absent, the clergy of Kilkenny, by procurement of justice Hoth, blasphemously resumed again the whole papism, or heap of superstitions of the bishop of Rome; to the utter contempt of Christ and his holy word, of the king and council of England, and of all ecclesiastical and politic order, without either statute or yet proclamation. They rung all the bells in that cathedral, minster, and parish churches; they flung up their caps to the battlement of the great temple, with Stallings and laughings most dissolutely, the justice himself being therewith offended: they brought forth their copes, candlesticks, holy waterstock, cross, and censers: they mustered forth in general procession most gorgeously, all the town over, with Sancta Maria, Ora pro nobis, and the rest of the Latin Litany: they chattered it, they chanted it, with great noise and devotion: they banquetted all the day after, for that they were delivered from the grace of God into a warm sun. F138 “For they may, now from thenceforth, again deceive the people, as they did aforetime, with their Latin mumblings, and make merchandise of them, 2 Peter 2. They may make the witless sort believe, that they can make every day new gods of their little white cakes, and that they can fetch their friends’ souls from flaming purgatory, if need be, with other great miracles else. They may now, without check, live in all evil life, as they have done always. I write not this without a cause; for why, there were some among them, which boasted both of this and much more too vain to be told. And, when they were demanded, How they would be discharged before God? They made answer, that ear confession was able to burnish them again, and to make them as white as snow, though they thus offended ever so oft. And one of them, for example, was the drunken bishop of Galway, who, besides these uncomely brags, furiously boasted in the house of one Martin, a faithful Italian and servant to the earl of Ormond, and in other houses more, that the bishop of Rome was the head supreme of the christian church in earth, and should so be proclaimed in Ireland, the said Martin, as God’s true friend, rebuking him for it. The exercise of this bishop is none other, but to gad from town to town over the English part, confirming young children for two-pence a piece, without examination of their christian belief, contrary to the christian ordinances of England, and at night to drink Rob Davie and Aqua Vital. “On the friday next following, which was the 8th day of September, five of my household servants, Richard Foster, a deacon, Richard Headley, John Cage, an Irish horse-groom, and a young maid of sixteen years of age, went out to make hay about half a: mile off, betwixt eight and nine of the clock, after they had served God according to the day. And, as they were come to the entrance of that meadow, the cruel murderers, to the number of more than a score, leaped out of their lurking bushes, with swords and with darts, and cowardly slew them all unarmed and unweaponed, without mercy. This did they, in their wicked fury, as it was reported, for that they had watched so long before, yea, a whole month space they say, and sped not of their purpose concerning me.
They feloniously also robbed me of all my horses, and of all master Cooper’s horses, who that time sojourned with me for safeguard of his life, to the number of seven, driving them afore them. In the afternoon, about three of the clock, the good sovereign of Kilkenny, having knowledge thereof, resorted to me with a hundred horsemen, and three hundred footmen, and so with great strength brought me that night to the town, the young men singing psalms and other godly songs all the way, in rejoice of my deliverance. “As we were come to the town, the people, in great number, stood on both sides of the way, both within the gates and without, with candles lighted in their hands, shouting out praises to God for delivering me from the hands of these murderers. The priests the next day, to color their mischief, caused it to be noised all the country over, that it was by the hand of God that my servants were slain, for that they had broken, they said, the great holy day of our lady’s nativity. F139 But I would fain know what holy days those blood-thirsty hypocrites and malicious murderers kept, who had hired their cruel kerns to do that mischief? Oh! abominable traitors, both to God and to all godly order. Ye here commend murder under a color of false religion, to hide your own mischiefs to the eyes of the people; but the eyes of God ye cannot deceive. Your horrible slaughter must now be God’s doing, and yet was it the devil that set you to work. F140 Ye prate here of the observance of the holy day, who never yet kept the holy day as it should be kept.
For ye never yet preached the word of God truly, neither ministered the sacraments rightly, neither yet taught the people to honor God purely, and to keep his commandments inviolably, which are the only keepings of the holy days. “On the day next following, which was saturday, in the afternoon, the aforesaid treasurer, a man unlearned, and of vile life, resorted to me with a number of priests, to tempt me, like as Satan did Christ in the wilderness, saving that Satan to Christ offered stones, and that tempting treasurer both apples and wine. And, as they had then compassed me in round about, the said treasurer proponed unto me, that they were all fully minded to have solemn exequies for king Edward, lately departed, like as the queen’s highness had had them in England. I asked them how that was? They made me answer, with a requiem mass and dirge. Then asked I of them again, Who should sing the mass? And they answered me, that it was my bounden duty to do it, being their bishop. Then said I unto them, ‘Massing is an office appointed of that antichrist, the bishop of Rome, to whom I owe no obedience, neither will I owe him any so long as I shall live. But if ye will have me there to do that office, which Christ, the Son of God, hath earnestly commanded, which is to preach his holy gospel, I will do it with all my heart.’ ‘No,’ said they, ‘we will have a solemn mass, for so had the queen.’
Said I, ‘Then must ye go seek out some other chapain; for, truly, of all generations, I am no mass-monger; for, of all occupations, methinks it is most foolish; for there standeth the priest disguised, like one that would show some conveyance or juggling play. He turneth his back to the people, and telleth a tale to the wall in a foreign language. If he turn his face to them, it is either to receive the offering, either to desire them to give him a good word, with Orate pro me fratres, (pray for me brethren,) for he is a poor brother of theirs; either to bid them God speed, with Dominus vobiscum, (the Lord be with you,) for they get no part of his banquet; either else to bless them with the bottom of the cup, with Benedicto Dei, (the blessing of God,) when all the breakfast is done. F140 And of these feats,’ said I, ‘can I now little skill.’ With that the treasurer, being in his francs, stoutly demanded a determinate answer, as though he came not thither without authority. Then suspected I somewhat the wickedness of justice Hoth, and such other; notwithstanding, I asked him once again, What profit he thought the king’s soul to have of those funeral exequies? Then answered one of the priests, that God knew well enough what he had to do. ‘Yet you must appoint him!’ said I. ‘If these poor suffrages be a way for him to heaven, and that he cannot go thither without them, ye are much to blame that ye have deferred them so long. Ye had a commandment, the last saturday, of the justice Hoth, to have solemnized them that night, and the next day after. But the devil, which that day danced at Thomas Town, (for they had a procession with pageants,) and the Aqua Vitae and Rob Davie withal, would not suffer you then to do them.
I desire you, considering that the last sunday ye deferred them to see the devil dance at Thomas Town, that ye will also this sunday defer them, till such time as I send to the queen’s commissioners at Dublin, know how to be discharged of the oath which I made to the king and his council for abolishment of that popish mass; for I am loth to incur the danger of perjury.’ With that, after a few words more, they seemed content, and so departed. “The next day came thither a proclamation, that they which would hear masses, should be suffered so to do, and they that would not, should not thereunto be compelled. Thus was that building clearly overthrown, and that practice of blasphemy would not take at that time, as God would. And, as I had continued there certain days, I chanced to hear of many secret mutterings, that the priests would not so leave me, but were still conspiring my death. It was also noised abroad, by the bishop of Galway, and others, that the antichrist of Rome should be taken again for the supreme head of the church of Ireland. And, to declare a contemptuous change from religion to superstition again, the priests had suddenly set up all the altars and images in the cathedral church. Beholding therefore so many inconveniencies to ensue, and so many dangers toward, having also, which was worst of all, no English deputy or governor within the land to complain to for remedy, I shook the dust off my feet against those wicked priests, according to Christ’s commandment, Matthew 10, that it might stand against them as a witness at the day of judgment. The next day, early in the morning, by help of friends, I conveyed myself away to the castle of Lechline, and so to the city of Dublin, where I, for a certain time, among friends remained.”
This account of the proceedings of the papists in Ireland, in opposition to the protestant reformation, is an important document in the history of that period.
Bale then relates his escape from Dublin in a small trading vessel, but before they had lost sight of land, he was taken by the pilot and commander of a Flemish vessel of war, who carried him on board their own ship, and robbed him of all his property. The Fleming was driven by adverse weather into St. Ives, in Cornwall, where an attempt was made to cause Bale to be suspected of treason. This failed, but after a further cruise of: several days, the ship came to Dover, where he was again endangered by a false accusation. The captain was about to deliver him to the papists, but was prevailed upon, by Bale’s offer of a sum of money, to proceed to Holland, where he obtained his liberty on payment of thirty pounds.
Bale then proceeded to Switzerland, and continued to reside at Basle during the reign of queen Mary. After her decease, he returned to England.
In January, 1560, he was appointed to a prebend in Canterbury cathedral.
He died in that city in November, 1563, aged sixty-eight.
Bale was well skilled in divinity as well as in general learning, and was an able preacher. Previously to his conversion from popery, which appears to have taken place in 1529, he for sometime taught the civil law at Cambridge. He was a voluminous writer; some of his pieces were written before he left the Romish church, but the greater part subsequently. The latter were chiefly controversial and personal; they bore heavily upon the papists, especially as he exposed the shameless lives of their ecclesiastics in the plainest terms. Their vices he attributes to the “idolatries” of their religion. With these he was well acquainted; speaking of the papists, he says, “Yea, I ask God mercy a thousand times, I have been one of them myself.” One of the most severe of his publications, “The Acts and unchaste Examples of religious Votaries, gathered out of their own legends and chronicles,” he did not complete; probably he was advised to suppress the abominable and shameful details.
Bale’s principal work was his “Summary of the Illustrious Writers of Great Britain,” in which, with most persevering industry, he collected from a variety of sources, a particular account of the most remarkable actions, sayings, and writings of each author, especially showing the errors and enormities of the church of Rome. Of course very opposite views of this work have been taken by different writers; it will, however, always be considered and referred to as the foundation of English biography. Strype admits that it is not free from errors, and justly asks, What historical work can be so? but he speaks of Bale as “an author of high esteem, and of commendable diligence and integrity, to whom posterity is much indebted for preserving from utter perishing much of the English ecclesiastical history.”
Bale’s controversial and other smaller pieces must have had very considerable influence at that day. Their coarseness, which now disgusts the reader, was then hardly considered an objection. He was, as Strype observes, sharp and foul enough sometimes, when he had foul subjects to deal with — and such were indeed abundant in that day. The near view he had of these practices appears to have been the principal occasion of exciting his disgust to popery. It has been fairly observed that “he wrote with all the warmth of one who had escaped the flames.” It is not; surprising that many among those who never have seen the fires should think such delineations too vivid.
Among the most finished of Bale’s writings, is “The Image of both Churches,” being a comment on the Apocalypse, printed in the reign of Edward VI. Some extracts from this work are given in the following pages, as it appeared desirable to include in the present collection specimens of an author who was so efficient among the British Reformers; that work also conveys to us the matured opinions of Bale, which he held in common with all the most eminent British Reformers, upon some subjects which have continually agitated the church of Christ. Bale must ever be respected for the bold and uncompromising manner in which he opposed the errors of the papacy, and the half measures of some among his associates; but the nature of his writings, though then very useful, gives him fewer claims upon our attention than most of the reformers at that period.