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The fact is alike disgraceful to the church and people, to the universities and to the government of England, that there is neither a commentary on the Bible, nor an ecclesiastical history, in their own language, worthy of the character, the opulence, the learning, or the religion Of the nation. Even to this day, the most complete ecclesiastical history, unsuperseded by any which has followed it, is the work of John Foxe. When will the time come that some better historian shall arise among us, who shall incorporate into one noble, useful, acceptable work, the original documents, which still remain unedited, with the labors of John Foxe, the Magdeburg Centuriators, Baronius, Alford, Tillemont, Fleury, Du Pin, Mosheim, Gieseler, Waddington, and others? F298 When shall some honorable and wealthy patron or patrons be found, who shall enable the students and scholars, who would rejoice to execute the task, to combine in one work the results of the labors of the learned protestant, papistical, Lutheran, and Calvinistic writers; and by relating only, if it were possible, the facts on which all are agreed, to give to England and to Europe the pure truth of the past; offending or pleasing with equal indifference, and instructing and improving all? Oh! for the patron or patrons to execute that other desirable work, which our country does not yet possess — a complete commentary on the whole Scriptures of truth! The time will come! “THY people shall be willing in the day of THY power,” to do these, and such like things as these: but we must wait His pleasure; and rest in patience till the possessors of the wealth of the world again delight to build up and to adorn the tabernacle of God, in the wilderness, with the gold and gems of Egypt. In the mean time, the individuals who are interested in the honor and safety of the ark, must continue their humble efforts in its great and holy cause.
Though the work of John Foxe, as we have already seen, was especially honored by the convocation of the Church of England; and though no ecclesiastical history has been hitherto submitted to the public, which gives a fuller account of all the facts related by the martyrologist; the fashion of the times has so far changed, that it has become a supposed proof of good sense, refined taste, sound judgment, and, above all, of most unsullied liberality, to despise and neglect his labors. Seldom has the reaction from unbounded national, and almost universal approbation, not merely to scanty, partial, and niggardly praise, but to severe and undeserved censure, been so complete as in this instance; and Foxe’s book would have been long ago consigned to oblivion, and the decision of our ancestors on its merits have been deemed a proof of their exceeding inferiority in literary power to their sons; if there had not been in the pages of Foxe the union of those higher qualities, which are as much more valuable than mere literary excellence, as virtue is superior to accomplishment, or piety to mere refinement; — the honest scorn of oppression, and the fearless love of truth. The spirit of his pages appeals to that peculiar highmindedness of his christian countrymen, which I trust, by God’s blessing upon them, will ever be with them, to love truth for the truth’s sake, and to detest persecution, whether from an infatuated church, a misguided sovereign, or an excited people.
I shall now endeavor, without undertaking the defense of every page, sentence, proposition, or opinion of the martyrologist, to prove that he deserved the approbation of the bishops and convocation of the Church of England. It has become necessary to do so. The approbation or the disapprobation of the great principles of the “Acts and Monuments” of John Foxe, is now too often made the criterion of attachment, or nonattachment, to the Church of England itself. Some of the best among us may be said to have been blinded by the influence which began in the days of archbishop Laud, under whose government of the church the volumes of Foxe were removed from the churches. Since that time, to despise Foxe, and to believe the rulers and senate of their own church to have erred in approving him, has been made the proof and pledge of high churchmanship. We will proceed to consider the principal writers who have opposed this once universal national approbation with which John Foxe was honored. It will be impossible to notice all who have contributed to the reaction. I shall select the chief, ending the list with the antagonist to whom Foxe himself replied — the persecuting Harpsfield. We will consider the several objectors, their objections, and the replies to those objections. On one point all are united in favor of Foxe. They take for granted the received truth — that the martyrologist, so far from being deemed unworthy of a place in the catalogue of ecclesiastical historians, or of being despised as a plagiarist from his contemporaries, is worthy to be regarded as an authority to whom deference must be paid on many points.
Let it be remembered that Foxe wrote at a time, when, with the marvellous and superhuman exception of the language of the English Prayer-book, the style of the best writers was unrefined. References were not given with particularity. Notes — that great explanatory improvement on the text, were almost unknown. The art of criticism was in its infancy. The authorities to which he alludes as the basis of his narra-fives, have been thoroughly sifted since his age, and many of them have become for some time obsolete. His credulity was that of his age; but it was not so childish as that of many of the most eminent ecclesiastics of his own church in the second and third generations after him, who objected to the favorable estimation of his labours. F299 The modern believer doubts more, and believes less, than his ancestors. But the work of Foxe has retained the favor of very many in a refined, critical, inquiring age. He pleases the devout by his piety, the candid by his honesty, the incredulous by the evidences of his facts. The publication of his book began in his own language the study of ecclesiastical history in England; and his volumes have not yet lost their value. The time has come when they ought to be set aside by other works, which our theologians and historians may be justly expected to produce, embodying all that is desirable to be retained, rejecting much that is objectionable, and interweaving more that is useful.
But until another history is written which shall include all, and much more than all, of the facts which he has col-leered; and which shall be written in the same honest and fearless spirit of the love of truth, and hatred both of persecution and error — until the labors of John Foxe are superseded, instead of being calumniated — we are justified in affirming that the publishers of this edition have been well advised to reproduce the work — that the subscribers have not acted absurdly — and that the pages of John Foxe, so far from deserving to become obsolete, still continue to be worthy of the approbation and study of the truth-seeking, religious, and protestant people of England.
I. MODERN ASSAILANTS.
Various writers of our own day have alluded to Foxe on some points on which they came into contact with him, and we often observe the existence of that dislike to the martyrologist which, from the days of Laud down to the present moment, has ever been a prominent feature of those who, of the two, prefer the decrees of Trent to the confession of Augsburg. I will name, in passing, two or three of these writers. 1. The Reverend Edward Churton, Rector of Crayke. — This gentleman, in a recent volume of Church History, thus characterizes a book, which the whole Church of England, by her Convocation of 1571, deliberately commended and adopted: — “There are many notices of early church history in Foxe’s Acts and Monuments; but it must be considered as a misfortune that so much credit has been given to this writer, and that he has found so many imitators; for his style is that of a coarse satire, rather than of history.” This is the mock refinement of one class of objectors.
Nothing is more easy than this sort of fault-finding. But Mr. Churton should, in fairness, apprize his readers that the style in which Foxe wrote was not so much that of the man, as of the age. A period in which venerable and learned prelates could be burned to death in the open street, was not likely to be one of great fastidiousness and delicacy of speech.
Nor is it reasonable that a great and laborious work, like that of the Martyrology, should be judged of by modern proprieties of diction. The same remark applies to — 2. The Reverend J. E. Tyler, Rector of St. Giles’s, who observes, in his “Life of Henry of Monmouth,” that “It is painful to read the marginal notes of Foxe, such as — ‘Lord Cobham would not obey the beast.’ ‘Caiaphas sitteth in consistory.’ ‘The wolf was hungry; he must needs be fed with blood.’ ‘Bloody murderers;’ with others, still more ungentle.”
It is difficult to understand the tone and temper of mind, which can turn from the heart-rending spectacle of a gallant christian knight, remorselessly persecuted by the Romish prelates, his sovereign alienated from him, himself represented as a traitor, and hunted up and down the country like a wild beast, and at last caught, and suspended by an iron chain over a slow fire, and so miserably murdered, — his whole crime being, his adherence to the faith of the New Testament; — it is difficult, I repeat, to enter into the feelings of writers who can turn from this thrilling sight, to find fault with the chronicler who uses such “ungentle” terms as “bloody murderers.” We have learnt, indeed, in modern days, that in writing history it is at all times desirable to be sparing of epithets. But it is idle to find fault with men of other times, — of times when hard words, and hard blows also, were of more frequent occurrence than now, — it is idle, I repeat, to impugn their narratives on such grounds as these.
Another objection or two of Mr. Tyler’s will fall under the same head with that which we shall next remark upon, in the work of — 3. Patrick F. Tytler, Esq. — This gentleman, as well as Mr. Tyler, has indulged in a species of criticism which is founded on a mistaken view. We will adduce an instance: — Foxe gives a narrative of Mary’s conduct towards Elizabeth, at the time of Wyat’s rebellion; when three knights and a troop of horse were despatched to Ashridge, “to bring the Lady Elizabeth to court, quick or dead.” Foxe’s narrative describes great violence and rudeness.
Mr. Tytler, however, in the course of his researches, discovers, in the State Paper Office, a letter or despatch from these three knights to Queen Mary, giving an account of their mission. This document very naturally omits all notice of violent or peremptory conduct; stating only necessary facts, and those in courtierlike style. Mr. Tytler, rejoicing in his own discovery, asserts that this despatch “carries truth upon every word of it, and totally demolishes the inflated narrative of Foxe.”
Let us try the soundness of Mr. Tytler’s method of reasoning by a case which will be familiar to every one.
Sir Walter Scott, towards the dose of his “Life of Napoleon Buonaparte,” had occasion to describe the Battle of Waterloo. His narrative is probably the best account we have of that great contest. In compiling it he used great pains and research, drawing his information from the highest sources, both by letter and personal converse.
Supposing, then, the present state of the world to last some centuries, and Scott to be preserved then, as Foxe is now. And let us imagine, that in A.D. 2300, some new historian should, by searching, recover what might have been long lost sight of — the original despatch of the Duke of Wellington from the field of Waterloo. Immediately, if he acted like Mr. Tytler, we should find him exclaiming, “Here is a document, the authenticity of which is unquestionable, and which completely demolishes the inflated narrative of Scott!”
Every one can see how absurd this would be: — every one can see that the narrative of one who quietly collected, after the event, all the details, would be both more full, and also more correct, than the despatch written from the scene of action: Yet Mr. Tytler prefers the latter; and alleges, that the dry and courtly report of Mary’s messengers, must be more credible than the narrative of Foxe, which doubtless was derived from the personal relations of some of Elizabeth’s own attendants!
It is by this sort of criticism that both Mr. Tyler and Mr. Tytler endeavor to diminish the credit of Foxe; but a little reflection on the validity of such objections, will soon replace the old martyrologist on his pedestal. 4. The Reverend S.R. Maitland, is the only other living assailant of Foxe to whom I shall allude; and it can be only an allusion. He has himself, by the almost endless succession of his attacks, rendered the very attempt to reply to them an impossibility. Seven separate publications, containing nearly six hundred octavo pages, of real, substantial criticism, on Foxe, has Mr. Maitland poured forth, within the last five or six years. I cannot inflict on the subscribers six hundred pages of reply. All that I can attempt to do, is merely to account for, and to allude to, this vast hostile array; and to give the reader some idea of the drift of the whole. To do this, I must distribute my remarks under three heads, or observations: — 1. That Mr. Maitland is not an impartial critic of Foxe. It is necessary that this should be borne in mind; for on more than one occasion Mr.
Maitland writes as if he were sincerely concerned for the honor and credit of Foxe, and were finding fault only with the errors of this edition.
It so happened, however, that before a single sheet of the 1837 edition of Foxe was printed, Mr. Maitland had already resolved, as he himself tells us, on the challenge of the Christian Observer, “to show that the attempt to set up Foxe as as an authority of any hind, is perfectly absurd.” F300 And even when commencing his attack upon the new edition, he says, “It is due, I hope and believe, to many most sincere and zealous protestants among the subscribers, to ask them whether they have fully considered what they are doing in supporting the republication of a work which is, to say the least, characterized by (I would not wish to believe that by any it is prized for) the strain of bitter invective which runs through it.” F301 And in closing that pamphlet, Mr. Maitland says, “I cannot but think that the style and spirit of Foxe’s work, and its aspect towards the church of which I am a minister, are quite sufficient to justify what they call my ‘personal dislike’ of it.” F302 It is confessed, then, with sufficient distinctness, that, in criticising either Foxe in all editions, or Foxe in the particular edition which was printed in 1887, and is, in a revised form, reprinted now, Mr. Maitland is not dealing with a writer like Bede, or Fleury, or Mosheim, on whose merits or demerits he could dispassionately enlarge; but with one, the circulation of whose work he deems an evil, and the discrediting of which he would regard with peculiar gratification. 2. Accordingly, he does not hesitate to treat the author with great injustice. This is chiefly visible in the want of all allowance for the circumstances under which the Martyrology was written.
There is scarcely a more remarkable instance extant, of great industry, shown in the production of a voluminous work in a short time, than is furnished by the Acts and Monuments.
Hume was occupied between eight and ten years in the production of his History of England; Gibbon was employed about fourteen years upon his Decline and Fall Foxe published his Latin work in 1559: the same, greatly enlarged, and written in English, filling more than seventeen hundred closely printed folio pages, in 1563; and a further enlargement, bringing it nearly into its present form, in 1570. And the Acts and Monuments contain more than twice as much matter as Gibbon’s, and three times the contents of Hume’s work.
A still greater difference is evident in the means and appliances of these authors. Modern historians write with all the aid of large libraries; generally, too, in easy circumstances, at home, and surrounded by friends and admirers. Foxe compiled the bulk of his work in exile, and the whole of it under the pressure of extreme want; unaided by libraries, borrowing a book or an old MS. wherever he could get one.
If it be asked, why the martyrologist did not prefer to wait for more auspicious circumstances; and why he rushed into print without more care and caution? -the answer is, that the necessities of the Church, and the urgent call of Protestants everywhere, forced him to hasten its publication. “Great was the expectation,” says Strype, “of the book here in England, before it came abroad.” F303 Further, it must always be remembered, that while the merit of vast industry rightfully belongs to him, still, the production of so prodigious a mass in some five or six years, was only rendered possible by the aid of large contributions from various friends.
These, in most instances, he could only gladly accept with all faults.
Hence, when critics now fasten upon error after error, it is very probable that they are criticizing, not Foxe, but some of his less careful and less learned assistants. F304 Most of these circumstances, and, above all, the fact, that as the world advances in civilization, libraries accumulate, scholar advances and improves upon scholar, and each new critic adds something to the accuracy and requirements of his age, — all this Mr. Maitland unreasonably overlooks, and finds fault with Foxe, as though he were a writer of our own times. But with what historian of former days could not Mr.
Maitland find fault? Would he have any difficulty in pointing out scores of errors in Hume and Gibbon, hundreds of faults in Collier and Fuller, or myriads of blunders in Illyricus and the Magdeburg Centuriators? Has he not recently shown, that it was just as easy for him to detect blunders in Strype, as in Foxe? F305 May we not, then, complain, that he applies all the stores of his learning, and all the acuteness of his criticism, to the destruction of Foxe’s character for truth and accuracy, without making the admission, which truth and justice so plainly demand, — that for an historian of the sixteenth century to write with the certainty and correctness of one of the nineteenth, would have been as impossible, as that he should have traveled, as we do, thirty or forty miles per hour. 3. The like unjust and unreasonable strictness of demand has been visible in Mr. Maitland’s criticisms on the 1837 edition.
The circumstances of its production have been entirely and purposely overlooked. A loud call had been made, for several years before 1836, for a new edition of the Acts and Monuments. Efforts had been made to induce the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge to undertake the work. On the failure of these, schemes were formed in other quarters, which proved abortive. At last, the present publishers took courage, and threw themselves into the work. But what had been called for, and what they undertook, was, simply, a good and handsome reprint of the work. A revision, and the eradication of all the errors into which Foxe or his various assistants might have fallen, was not asked of them. But, as soon as they had issued their proposals, and some subscribers had entered their names, a natural impatience began to manifest itself, and they were eagerly asked, when the first volume would appear?
Now of all this Mr. Maitland takes little notice. He falls upon the work as if it were a history of the present day, and wonders that Foxe should not always understand the strange phraseology of the old Latin chronicles, then existing only in MSS; and is still more surprised, that where his mistakes have introduced obscurity into a statement, the editors of the edition of 1837 did not clear that obscurity away. Clearly, it must have been both their wish and their duty to do this, so far as time and opportunity permitted; and, as far as time and opportunity permitted, it was done; but, in many cases, a conjectural emendation of this kind might only introduce one mistake in lieu of another. No doubt this was the case in some instances; and upon such Mr. Maitland eagerly fastens, with his peculiar skill, and immediately draws the harsh and unjust conclusion, that besides retaining the old errors, the editors have added new ones.
With these general remarks, I shall dismiss Mr. Maitland. To reply, in detail, to his 567 pages of criticism, is clearly impossible. The truth of much that he has written is cheerfully admitted. The present edition (1843) will show how sedulously the editors have striven to turn his censures to a practical use. The main question, however, relates to the value of the work itself, independent of any question concerning this or that edition. On this point Mr. Maitland will best be answered, by exhibiting the agreement of a long series of great men, in various ages of the Church, as to the high and unquestionable rank of Foxe as an historian. A chain of testimony of this kind, will be given at the close of the present review. 2. FORMER OPPONENTS.
I must now proceed to earlier antagonists.
On the mere railings of Cobbett or Eusebius Andrews, I shall not waste the reader’s time. The latter, who is the most voluminous and the most effective writer of the two, is well described in the Quarterly Review : — “ His arguments bear the same relation to sound logical reason, as the scrawlings of a lunatic to the diagrams of the mathematician.” F306 We arrive then, at last, at the declared and natural impugners and contemners of the book, the Romanists, Milner, Parsons, and Harpsfield, and the nonjuror, Jeremy Collier. We will attend to each of these writers in his turn. 1. Dr. John Milner, Or Miller, Bishop Of Castabala.
I shall briefly review the objections which Milner has collected against the work of Foxe. They are to be found in his “Letters to a Prebendary,” his “End of Controversy,” and his “History of Winchester.”
He introduces his attack on Foxe, by alleging the various excuses or apologies which are urged by the friends of Mary for the burnings of the antipapalists. It is much to be regretted that this very influential writer did not submit to his friends and party, the great truth — that the laws of the church of Rome are all, every one, founded, established, and enforced, upon the theory which ever will, ever did, ever must, end in punishing the body for the good of the soul — the theory, that the church of Rome and the bishop of Rome, have an innate divine authority, confirmed by the general councils, and especially by the council of Trent, to enforce the canons which prescribe compulsory obedience to the church and bishop of Rome. The whole mass of the bulls of the popes, the whole ecclesiastical code of Rome, is as much founded upon the one principle, that obedience to the church is to be enforced by the church; as the law of England is founded upon the principle that the obedience of the subject is to be enforced by the state, and by the king. The apologies of Milner prove the truth of this affirmation to the utmost. I insert them, therefore, with a brief notice of the fallacy of each, as the best introduction to his remarks on the martyrologist. “As the sanguinary persecutions,” says Milner, “for which this reign (that of Mary) was, unfortunately, too famous, reached Winchester, it is necessary to say something concerning them; and since the matter has been misrepresented by the generality of writers, for the purpose of keeping up a spirit of unchristian resentment and counter-persecution in the nation, we shall enlarge upon the subject further than would be proper, were a less benevolent object in view than the appeasing of that spirit.” Objection 1. “First, then, it is to be observed, that if Mary was a persecutor, it was not in virtue of any tenet of her religion that she became so.” Answer 1. The tenets of her religion taught obedience to the bishop of Rome, at all hazards, whatever were the conscientious or rational conclusions of the individual inquirers. Objection 2. “At her coming to the crown, and for almost two years afterwards, while she declared herself openly in favor of the ancient religion, she as openly disclaimed every degree of force or violence against those who professed and practiced any of the late systems.”
F307 Answer 2. She disclaimed force, but she demanded obedience in religion. The question is, What was to be the result to the subject, if that obedience was not eventually yielded? She would not punish heretics, unless they were obstinate heretics! Objection 3. “We have the ordinances and instructions of the pope for bringing back this kingdom to his communion; in these occur many documents and rules of forbearance and conciliation, but not a word that insinuates corporal punishment or persecution of any kind. F308 It is universally admitted that the papal legate, cardinal Pole, uniformly expressed ‘ a strong aversion to extremity and rigor,’ and opposed the practice of them, as far as was in his power. In like manner it is admitted, that the Spanish chaplains of king Philip, and other catholic preachers, publicly condemned, from the pulpit, the persecution which was then carried on; as being opposite to the christian spirit, and detrimental to the interests of religion.” F310 Answer 3. Would not the pope, the cardinal, and the Spanish chaplains, all have agreed that obstinate heretics, continuing to refuse to obey, should be eventually coerced? Would persevering disobedience to Rome, have been permitted? This plea of Milner is mere hypocrisy. Objection 4. “If, after an interval of nearly two years’ toleration, the queen engaged the parliament to revive the ancient acts against Lollards, it cannot; be denied that she had many provocations, f312 from which she too hastily inferred that the existence of the protestant religion was incompatible with the security of her government. These were — Wyat’s rebellion; the open and avowed attempts made by reformers upon her own life, and the lives of the established clergy; f313 the prayers that were publicly made in conventicles for her death; f314 the intolerable insults publicly offered to the religion of the state; f315 the political impostures practiced against her government and faith; f316 and the seditious and treasonable books which were published by some of the leaders of the reformation, and, amongst the rest, by our late prelate of Winchester, Poynet. F317 All this, however, is offered, not in excuse, but barely in extenuation of the charge brought against Mary.” Answer 4. All these pleas will neither excuse, justify, nor even extenuate the cruel burnings of peasants, artificers, and women, against whom no such crimes were alleged, and whose only offense was antipopery.
Each traitorous offender — every treasonable offense ought to have been punished, but never, never ought there to have been either with Henry, Mary, or Elizabeth, burnings for religious opinions. We have changed; and if the propriety and reasonableness of further changes in our laws respecting religion can be pointed out, we will make. further changes. Rome must imitate our example; and not be content with apologies. Objection 5. “If Gardiner, Bonner, and certain other catholics taught and practiced religious persecution in their days, they were not singular in this particular; the most eminent protestant divines openly inculcated the same intolerant lessons. F318 In like manner, the protestant states were no sooner established, than they every where began to turn the sword against the catholics; and not content with that, the different sects amongst them made use of it against each other.
F320 At the very time when Mary was burning protestants in England, the English refugees in Germany were persecuting each other on account of their respective opinions.” F321 Answer 5. I have noticed these sickening recriminations. I again say, Equal crime proves only equal guilt when that equal crime is continued. Our guilt has ceased, for our laws are changed. The guilt of Rome is not that it formerly persecuted, but that its canon laws are unchanged.
Let us now consider the charges of Milner against John Foxe. They will be found to be as vague and as unmeaning as those of Andrews. Objection 6. “The huge history of these persecutions,” says Milner, “written by John Foxe, which has been the storehouse for all succeeding writers on the same subject, has been demonstrated to be one tissue of falsehood, misrepresentation, and absurdity.” F322 Answer 6. The answer to this remark is, that instead of the word demonstrated, we must read the word, accused, or said to be. No assailant of Foxe has demonstrated his work to be one tissue of falsehood. Objection 7. “Some of his pretended martyrs were alive at the time when he was describing the circumstances of their death; many of them were executed for rebellion, assassination, theft, or other crimes: not at few of them died in the open profession of the catholic doctrine, or only differed in certain points of no great consequence to the main subjects of controversy; whilst the greater part either differed from the received doctrines of the established church, or differed from each other in some of the points, at least, on which they were arraigned and condemned.” F326 Answer 7. For “some” read “one;” that is, Marbeck, to whose case I shall presently refer.
None were burnt for such crimes in the reign of Mary who are mentioned by Foxe as martyrs. I have already said, if a thief be burnt, not for robbery, but for quakerism, he may be called a martyr for that quakerism. Their holding different opinions among each other, or their greater or less variation from popery, has nothing to do with the one only fact of any moment, which is, that they were burnt for anti-popery.
With respect to the remarks of Milner, in the notes, I add that — 1. Foxe could not have committed errors by trusting to the accounts of poor, simple people, without those errors being instantly discovered. He did trust to those who reported the martyrdoms, but his narratives were instantly and closely scrutinized. The most decisive proofs of his veracity are to be found in his great anxiety to correct his accounts of Grimwood and Marbeck, one of which, as we shall see, he retained, and one of which he rejected, after inquiring into the truth of the accusation that he had been in both instances deceived.
Milner then goes on to discuss the martyrdoms of Bainbridge and Philpot, who were natives or residents of Winchester. In doing so he appears to condemn the cruelties in question, by speaking of “the odious persecution;” but he so speaks of “church authority” and “obstinate heretics,” that the reader of his book very unwillingly but very rightly infers, that the bodily punishment of a heretic by his church would not be deemed to be persecution. I pass by all such observations, however, as he has not assailed in his narrative the character of Foxe.
One mistake he seems to have discovered in the narrative of the death of Gardiner by Foxe. “Gardiner,” says Milner, “having opened the new parliament, in quality of lord chancellor, October 21, 1555, was two days afterwards seized with the gout, and died, in sentiments of great humility and contrition, November 12th following, at York-place, now Whitehall.”
In the notes to this passage Milner adds — “Foxe, and after him Burnet, and other historians, relate, that on the day of Ridley and Latimer’s execution at Oxford, Gardiner postponed his dinner until he had received an account of that tragical event, having messengers at proper distances on the road to convey him the earliest intelligence; that the old duke of Norfolk, who was then one of his guests, expressed great uneasiness at the delay of his meal; and that, on the arrival of the news, Gardiner, transported with joy, sat down to table, where he was seized with the dysury, and being carried to bed, died in great torments a fortnight after.
The falsehood of this stow, founded in excessive prejudice, is proved by Collier, from the following circumstances: Latimer and Ridley suffered October 16. October 21 Gardiner opened the parliament, which he afterwards attended a second time. The old duke of Norfolk had been dead a year before this event; and Gardiner himself died November 12, not of dysury, but of the gout.” F327 With respect to the duke of Norfolk, who dined with Gardiner, it was probably the grandson of the duke, who died in 1554. He might be called the old duke after he had possessed his dukedom some years, and ceased to be a young man; and with respect to the other alleged inaccuracy, the death of Gardiner, I answer in the language of the Quarterly Review: — “As to the death of Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, Dr. Milner, as his high-church friend, Jeremy Collier, had done before him, endeavors triumphantly to confute Foxe’s story, that he died of dysury, immediately after the burning of Ridley and Latimer, by the fact of his having opened the parliament five days after that melancholy event. But let it be remembered, that Foxe, though at that time in concealment, had the best opportunities of information; and it has been suggested, that Gardiner, though laboring under that malady, might really open the parliament the fifth day from its access, and return to his own house, where he certainly expired a few days after. “A late speaker of the House of Commons is said to have attended to his parliamentary duties under circumstances equally distressing.” F328 The conclusion is, that Milner has produced nothing against “the veracity and fidelity” of the martyrologist. This attempt, also, like every other, to impeach him of dishonest representations of facts, has totally failed. F329 I shall now, before I proceed to the consideration of the other assailants of John Foxe, make some remarks upon those cases, which have been always placed by his opponents in the van of their forces — the cases so often alluded to, of Grimwood and Marbeck. The manner in which Foxe was betrayed into error respecting either of these persons must be regarded as a demonstration of the severe criticism to which his book was subjected, and the extreme fewness of the mistakes, inadvertencies, and inaccuracies, so freely, but so falsely alleged against him. When we consider the extent of his work, the disadvantages under which he labored, and the vigilant inspection which it has undergone, we may be justly astonished that so few charges can be adduced against him. Neither can we be surprised that the deficiency of matter for any just impeachment of his veracity and fidelity, should be compensated, by the general, though unproved accusation, of universal falsehood, and by unsparing, and rancorous abuse.
The cases of Grimwood and Marbeck are those alone, in relating which Foxe is charged with wilful falsehood, in his statements of facts.
The accusation respecting his account of Grimwood is — that in the last volume of his Acts and Monuments, in that section, where he relates the strange deaths of certain persecutors, and calls them, I must say, with very questionable propriety, examples of God’s judgment; he has included among those persecutors a person named Grimwood; and affirmed respecting him — that in the harvest following his having given false witness against a religious antipapalist of the name of Cooper, as he was stacking corn, in full health, fearing no peril, he suddenly fell down, and immediately most miserably died. In consequence of the publication of this story, a clergyman believed it; and quoted the death of Grimwood, in a sermon, as an illustration of his argument, and as an instance of the judgment of God against all persecutors. So far, however, was the story from being true, that Grimwood was at that very moment one of the congregation; and being indignant at the charge, he brought an action of defamation against the clergyman, which is alluded to in Croke’s reports, The verdict was given for the defendant; because no malice could be proved on the part of the clergyman. Anthony Wood charges Foxe with committing, in this instance, a most egregious falsity; and nearly every writer who hates the martyrologist, has rung the changes on this story; as if it was an undeniable, and wilful untruth.
The reply to this accusation shall be taken from Strype’s Annals of the Reformation. F332 The martyrologist was informed of his supposed mistake. He inquired personally into the matter; and retained the narrative in the last edition of his work, published under his own superintendence.
Let us first examine his own account. It is contained in seven short paragraphs. F333 I will proceed through each.
The first gives an account of Cooper. The second, that a man named Fenning wished to purchase from him two oxen: but Cooper refused to sell them. Upon this refusal, Fenning (in the third paragraph) charges Cooper before sir Henry Doyle with high treason. Cooper was carried before the magistrate by two persons, one named Timperley — the other Grimwood of Lawshall, a constable.
We read in the fourth paragraph that Cooper was indicted at Bury for the alleged treason: and found guilty, and executed. The accusation against him was supported by Fenning himself, and by two other witnesses, both of whom were suborned and perjured, whose names were Richard Whyte, and another Grimwood — Grimwood of Hitchaw, in the county of Suffolk.
In the fifth paragraph is the assertion that this last-named Grimwood died suddenly, and miserably.
The sixth paragraph appeals to Fenning as being still alive, when the account of Grimwood’s death was published: an appeal, which is certainly no proof of falsehood; more especially as both in the sixth and seventh paragraphs this very Fenning is described as a wicked man, for whose repentance, Foxe offers up a prayer.
Let us now consider the observations of the impartial and accurate Strype.
In narrating all those circumstances, of which John Foxe could not be an eye-witness, he was unavoidably compelled, as we all are, to rely on the authority of the reports of others. John Foxe was not an eye-witness to the death of Grimwood. The only question, therefore, is, Did he invent the story? or had he authority for this narrative? and was that authority worthy of belief?
The relation respecting Grimwood, says Strype, as Foxe inserts it in his history, is this — “ Be it true or false, he had it from William Punt, who, under queen Mary, had been a diligent inquirer into the sufferings of the professors; and taking the same in writing, had procured the printing of them beyond sea, and then vended the books here in England. The same Punt was informed against, by Tye, bishop Bonner’s commissary in the parts about Colchester, as a leading heretic. This is the character of the man. But to pursue this matter further, and to search whence this Punt had his information; he had it from credible witnesses, who gave in this account before him and Sutton, a minister of Ipswich, and one Foxe, brother to our martyrologist. After the martyrology was printed, William Rushbrook, minister of Byldeston, a neighboring parish to Ipswich, reading the aforesaid relation of Cooper, in the said book, and knowing something of the business, perceived several errors therein. Therefore, out of care of consulting for the credit of the author and book, he wrote hereupon to Mr.
Walker, an eminent minister in Ipswich, showing wherein Punt’s information failed, and wishing it had not been put into Mr. Foxe’s book, and desiring him to inform the said author thereof. Cooper’s punishment, as he asserted, having been justly inflicted, not so much for religion, as treasonous words against the queen. The sum of his letter was, ‘That he had talked with those which he judged could best certify the truth of the matter which was reported of Cooper. That if every man indeed might be a martyr which was then punished for rebellious words, we should have many martyrs indeed. That Will. Punt was much to blame, because that he, Rushbrook, told him, more than two years past, that his paper that contained that report was untrue, which, as he had then writ it, was now put into print. That in this report he committed these faults, viz. — that Cooper was no such man that ought in commendation to be named in that book: that whereas Whyte was named to be a false witness, he witnessed truly: that Grimwood was unjustly reported to be a witness, much more a false witness: that what was said to come upon the said Grimwood, was as true as the rest: that Cooper was valued more than he was worth, as to his goods, which were seized by the sheriff; a true account whereof in kine, horses, and other cattle, and household stuff, came but to 61l . 7s . 4d .’ “When all this was understood by Mr. Foxe, he came himself to Ipswich to inform himself truly about it. Punt also went to Mr. Sutton beforesaid, who remembered it very well, every part thereof as it was then imprinted.
Notwithstanding, these two, with another honest man, went to the party that had related it, and read the story unto them, who boldly affirmed the same to be true, and would so confess before any man, as they said. There were two that attested this, being one and twenty years of age apiece. He also procured Mr. Candish, a justice of peace, as it seems, and the wife of Cooper, to meet at Ipswich; whom, with the children, they minded to bring before Candish and others, and so to make a true certificate thereof with their hands, as witnesses of their words, and then would send it up with speed; as Punt wrote up to London, to Foxe’s brother, living at the duke of Norfolk’s house, by Aldgate. He wrote, also, that Mr. Sutton had and would take great pains therein. And so I leave the matter undecided to the reader’s judgment and discretion. I have set down all this at this length, to show what diligence and care was used that no falsehood might be obtruded upon the readers, and Foxe and his friends’ readiness to correct any mistakes that might happen. ” F334 Such are the precise words of Strype. I give them at length, that the reader may be assured I have no wish to allege anything of my own, in favor of the accused martyrologist.
He will see that Foxe used every precaution in his power to obtain a true narrative; and after he had done so, he retained the account in his book.
There were two persons of the name of Grimwood. One died, as Foxe related; the other was present at the sermon. The clergyman was not accurate in his specification, and was wrongly supposed by this hearer to be guilty of a libel. This solution of the difficulty is confirmed by another declaration of Strype, who positively affirms that he had received an assurance that the relation by Foxe of the judgment upon Grimwood was true, from a very careful inquirer, whose name he mentions. “This inquirer into the truth of the matter told me,” says Strype, “that he had read it in a very authentic paper, carrying so much evidence with it, that he did not in the least misdoubt it; the judgment, indeed, not falling upon that Grimwood who sued the minister, but upon another of the same name, both christian and surname, as was well known afterwards.” F336 Such is the remaining evidence that Foxe did not invent the story; but that he had such authority for his narrative as he was justified in crediting. If this authority is not deemed to be sufficient, I refer the reader to the original letters from which Strype borrowed his account. They are preserved in the British Museum. F337 The accuracy, the fidelity, and the veracity of John Foxe, remain, therefore, unimpeachable in that very narrative for which, more than for any others, he has been stigmatized as a false, unsafe, and unworthy historian.
When Foxe was accused of inaccuracy in relating the incident which he deemed to be the judgment of God against Grimwood, he went down to Ipswich to make inquiries whether he had been deceived or not. He retained, after such inquiry, the narrative in his book. In the present instance he was informed that he had been deceived, tie made inquiry; and having done so, he expunged his account. How was it possible that he could have given to his readers a more perfect proof of his desire to speak the simple truth? Yet he is still denominated, in the coarse language of his unsparing opponent, “the lying Foxe,” both for retaining the story of Grimwood, and for having once received into his martyrology the story of the martyrdom of Marbeck.
The case is briefly this. Four persons of the name of Testwood,: Person, Filmer or Finmore, and Marbeck, were condemned to be burnt at Windsor, under the act of the Six Articles. One of the four was pardoned: it was Marbeck. Foxe was not present at the cruelty. The information upon which Foxe relied told him that Finmore was pardoned, and that Marbeck was burnt; his authorities had deceived him; Marbeck was pardoned, and Finmore was burnt. This is the whole error he committed, and this error was corrected in a list of “Faults and oversights,” at page 1742 of that same edition. When his book was published, the scrutinizing eyes of his papal critics immediately detected the error, as they would have clone any other, if he had committed any: and they loudly triumphed. The correction of the error, in the same volume, they either did not see, or affected not to have seen. Harpsfield, the contemporary of Foxe, is quite sportive on the subject. Leaving his more lugubrious, though not inelegant language, he becomes humorous over this mistake of Foxe. He had been deriding the manner in which the pseudo-martyrs, as he calls the victims of the intolerant ecclesiastics of the day, endured the violence of the fire and declared their freedom from pain. “Do not think,” says this beginner of the attacks upon the martyrologist, “that I am unjust towards the pseudomartyrs, and that I wish to lessen or extenuate these their miraculous endurings; for I certainly cannot doubt their truth, if that indeed be true which Foxe relates, that we have lately had another Polycarp among us in England; upon whom either the fire had no power, or who, his whole body having been reduced to ashes, sprung to life again, more wonderfully than Lazarus. For behold you have John Marbeck, the organist at Windsor, in the year 1543, and 28th July, ‘undergoing martyrdom at the fire with cheerful constancy,’ (I quote the words of Foxe.) But he is yet living, and chaunts as beautifully, and plays the organ as skilfully, at Windsor, as he was wont to do.’ Crito-bulus answers, ‘I am altogether astonished at this account. And now you have, according to your own confession, at least one miracle of our martyrs, which may vie with the: most celebrated of those either of Christ or of his disciples.’ Irenaeus answers, — ‘ This I would most readily concede to you, if he had ever been burnt; but he was neither burnt nor brought to the fire.’” f339 Before the error in his narrative had been thus uncourteously pointed out, Foxe had already adopted the only remedy in his power: he had acknowledged and corrected the error. The correction did not satisfy his assailants. He expostulates with them on this treatment; — “Be it known to all the depravers of my book,” he says, “that I repeat that Marbeck was condemned, but not burned; yet, even if I had not corrected the mistake, what gentle or courteous reader could have therein any just matter to triumph over and insult me; seeing the judicial acts, records, and registers, the bishops’ certificates, and the very writ of execution remaining, did lead me to give the account in my book. He who writes histories and who cannot be in all places to see all things, must follow the records and registers he consults. But now, even now, that I correct the error of which complaint is made, I am still condemned; I correct myself, but I am still corrected by others; I warn the reader of the truth; still I am called a liar. Though I use my utmost diligence to prevent occasion of cavilling, I may not be indulged with the privilege which is granted to every author, to plead my own errata. If such men could be satisfied, I have said enough; if they cannot, nothing I can add will satisfy them. May God himself amend them!”
Yes, venerable martyrologist! so it has been, and so it will be, as long as any men are to be found who hate the pourtrayer of the effects of this one false principle — that the punishment of the body is required, to prevent the free formation of religious opinion. So it has been, from Alan Cope f341 to Eusebius Andrews, and his living imitators. Wood, Milner, f343 Parsons, Andrews, and every assailant of Foxe, prove and demonstrate the general truth, accuracy, and fidelity of his martyrology, by exhausting their energies in declamations of triumph over the mistakes of the historian, in the cases of Grimwood and Marbeck. They are not able, or are not willing, to see, that precisely the same vigilance, enmity, scrutiny, and intense anxiety to discover faults, were exercised towards the other portions of his work by his contemporary foes, who lived among the relations and friends of the martyrs, and they were all exercised in vain. No book of such magnitude ever underwent such an ordeal as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Many, very many, are the defects which the accumulated knowledge and the severer criticism of our own age can now discover; but there are preserved in Foxe’s martyrology alone the authenticated materials which must ever be invaluable to the student of history. If the book had never been published, the solid foundation for a better ecclesiastical history of the catholic church, and of its best portion, the English church, had not perhaps even yet been laid. F346 I cannot defend the coarsenesses which justly shock our modern refinement. I read many sentences which I utterly condemn; but if this book had never been published, I verily believe that the heart of England had never been so permanently animated with that utter abhorrence of persecution which has been the foundation both of our political liberty and national influence among mankind; and which has certainly given to the people, a church which the christian community may love. 2. Jeremy Collier.
The celebrated jacobite and nonjuror, — the absolver at the place of execution of sir John Friend and Sir William Perkins, who had been convicted, certainly upon questionable evidence, of a plot to assassinate king William, — the successful opponent of the immoralities of the English drama, — the author of the Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, f349 throughout the whole of which he seems to have had Foxe’s Acts and Monuments before him, — is the next assailant of the labors of the martyrologist. With Mr. Maitland and Eusebius Andrews, he appears to have had a “personal dislike” to the book; and it was with him, as with them, that criticism founded upon this unworthy motive has sometimes led him to injustice and unfairness. As Jeremy Collier is an author whose integrity and candor, notwithstanding his severe attacks on the motives and actions of those to whom he was politically opposed, has been hitherto considered unimpeachable, I can only conclude that he hated Foxe for the same reasons which make those who are still called Highchurchmen, dislike the martyrologist and his pages. Foxe wrote his book at the time when the authority of the church had been abused to the atrocious persecutions which he has related. All the eloquence and energies of the historian are devoted, therefore, to the cause of the oppressed rather than of the oppressors — to the cause of the victim rather than of the judge.
The abuse of which he complains was principally that of the papal authority; but because the episcopal power was not free from the modes of thinking which had been originally introduced into states and churches by the Roman canonical law, therefore it is that the opposition by Foxe to the abuses of church authority sometimes appears to be antii-episcopal.
He did not perceive that, in a wisely-ordered community, the church of a country is only the christian people of that country, considered ecclesiastically, of whom the clergy are but the servants, as Christ was humbled to take upon him the form of a servant; and that the state is but the same christian people, considered politically, of whom the civil magistrates are but the servants. F350 He did not perceive, that, in England at least, the government is but the committee of the state ruling the people according to the united ecclesiastical and political law; and, therefore, that the church being the people, and the people being the state, the church can no more be independent of the state or of the people, than it can be independent of itself. The ecclesiastical servants of the people may refuse to receive the conclusions of the political servants of the people in matters of religion; as the political servants of the people may refuse to receive the conclusions of the ecclesiastical servants of the people in matters of civil polity; and many painful controversies and many fierce persecutions may be the result of their mutual disagreements; but when Christ gave his apostles the commission to preach the gospel, and when the same providence of God gave the scepter to Nero or Vespasian, both the apostles and the emperors were the servants of the people, proposing or rejecting the truths of the gospel. But the one people was not the one church, till the civil magistrate and the ecclesiastical magistrate adopted the same conclusions, and the one people thus became one church. The church, before the time of Constantine, was formed of that portion of the people who received the apostolical teaching: the church, after the time of Constantine, consisted of the whole people, who were now governed by the one united law of the apostles and of the emperors. The christian church became the christian people; and the christian people became the christian church. The people were the church, in religion: the same people were the state, in politics. They were governed by one law, of God, and not of man alone, and were no longer, therefore, independent of each other.
As it was in the Roman empire in the time of Constantine, so it had been under God’s own ordinance in the days of Moses, and of the Jewish sovereigns. They were one people with one law to govern them, as the people of God, and a two-fold class of magistrates, to administer that portion of the law which related to God, and that portion of the law which related to man. So it also ought to be, and so it is prophesied it shall be, that every people shall be one united church and state, in which the ecclesiastical servants who teach the law of God, shall be agreed with the political servants who teach the law of man, and they shall no more oppose each other. F351 Neither did Collier nor his followers perceive that the people may preserve their conviction that the authority of their ecclesiastical servants and of their political servants may be said to proceed from God, as certainly as the authority of a father and mother proceeds from God; and yet, as I have already observed, as a most affectionate family may be compelled, with grief and tears, to take out a statute of lunacy against the most affectionate parent, to refuse obedience to his divinely-given authority, to depose their father from his place, and to decree the possession of the power over the family to their elder brother; so also a people may take out the statute of lunacy against their chief ecclesiastical servants, or their chief political servants, if the family is oppressed and injured by those very persons whose authority may still be said to be of divine origin, but of injurious exercise. Collier and the nonjurors did not perceive or acknowledge this. Foxe, by his severe denunciations of oppression, whether by the ecclesiastical or political servants of the people, compelled many of his readers to infer this conclusion; though he himself has never so far proceeded as to affirm it.
Neither he nor they perceived that a christian church, state, or people are, or ought to be, all names for one and the same community, in which the several officers and servants sometimes clashed and differed. The nonjurors and the papists, therefore, hated the martyrologist, because the people inferred from his labors that even a divinely-appointed authority could not demand implicit and unremonstrating obedience when it was injurious to the nation whom it was intended to benefit; while the subjects who were compelled to be obedient to authority, admired and loved the pages, which taught them that the exercise of a divinely-originated authority might be fallible and injurious; and therefore, that, though they were still required as a church, or people, governed by the law of God, to obey their double rulers, yet their very obedience might be accompanied with remonstrance, and be limited, or qualified, according as that divine law regulated the people or the church, both in their capacity of rulers and of subjects. If this had been rightly understood, the nonjurors, and their followers, would not have hated the labors of John Foxe. This, and this alone, is the secret which secures to all classes of a people, the advantages of good ecclesiastical and civil government — that they thus consider their ecclesiastical and civil rulers as possessing a divinely-granted power, as the parents of one christian family; but that they demand that such divinelyoriginated power be exercised according to the law of God, and compatibly with the best interests of man. Simple as this truism may now appear to be, it is not even yet universally adopted. The papist people treat their ecclesiastical magistrates, or servants, as their irresponsible lords. The antipapal people, who are not episcopal, treat their ecclesiastical servants as slaves. The episcopal people treat their ecclesiastical servants as fathers, and deem themselves neither their lords nor their slaves; but as their adult, free, religious and thoughtful children; acknowledging a divinely-given authority in the parent, but claiming to be governed by the divine law, which is granted for the service both of the parent and children — that power, freedom, toleration, religion, and union, may be blended together for the common peace and benefit of the one christian people, church, or family. Time, experience, and all the painful controversies and inconveniences of the past, have alone impressed these now common-place remarks upon nations and governments. They are all founded upon the one truth, which is taught by the labors of John Foxe, that divinely-originated authority may be so exercised, that submission to its decrees is a crime, both against God and main The papists thought otherwise respecting their ecclesiastical magistrates. The nonjurors thought otherwise respecting both their ecclesiastical and temporal magistrates. Both hated the martyrologist; and depreciated and undervalued his labors. Never, therefore, was any book so severely scrutinized as the Acts and Monuments of John Foxe.
Collier was most conscientiously the eulogizer of authority for its own sake. He seems to watch for an opportunity of condemning Foxe, as the assertor of the privileges of the christian individual to think and judge freely. He writes as if he imagined that the exercise of such freedom must uniformly, instead of casually, lead the individual into error. He could not understand that this very privilege is the best safeguard to the divine authority of the church itself, because of the evidences upon which the religion of the church rests; while it is the best security, and the most vigilant protector, of the right exercise of that authority: and he so speaks of Foxe and of his efforts, that if it had been possible to have discovered any material error, or any notorious falsification of history, Collier, as the writer of the same ecclesiastical narrative through which Foxe had previously proceeded, would have exposed the fault, and triumphed in the exposure. The Acts and Monuments of Foxe were unavoidably well known, and were most familiar to Collier; we may’ believe, therefore, that he has enumerated every inaccuracy which his research enabled him to mention, tie has only, however, from the whole mass of the immense materials collected by Foxe, gathered eighteen objections, five in the first volume, and thirteen in the second volume, of his Ecclesiastical History, each of which I shall now proceed to consider.
That Collier had Foxe’s Acts and Monuments constantly before him, appears from the frequent allusions to the book, even where no fault is found with it. Thus we read, on the question whether Sawtre was the first who suffered death by burning for heresy, that “Foxe is positive on this point, and affirms that king Henry IV. was the first of all the English kings that began the unmerciful burning of Christ’s saints.” F352 Collier discusses in another place, whether a certain testimonial in favor of Wycliffe by the university of Oxford, was a forgery. He gives the arguments of Wood against the document; but adds that Foxe did not doubt its authenticity; without any censure on him for his credulity; though Collier believes also that the testimonial in favor of Wycliffe was a counterfeit. I mention these references to Foxe, to prove the probability that his work was generally kept in view by Collier throughout his history. I notice only the objections he produces. Objection 1. Collier’s first objection is, that “the opinions of William Thorp, a lollard, who takes no notice, in his definition of a church, of the necessity of a regular mission, or apostolical succession, were approved by the martyrologist.” Though he objects to Foxe’s opinion, he considers him, at the same time, an undeniable authority, fully to be depended upon for his statements of facts. “I shall only observe,” he says “that we have no reason to question the truth of the narrative of Thorp’s trial, since that whole narrative was penned, as Foxe reports, by Thorp himself.” Collier then goes on to say — that a paper called Thorp’ s testament is approved by the martyrologist, though it contains some very objectionable doctrines. “He exhorts the people to desert the communion of the church in consequence of the misbehaviour of the clergy: a doctrine which is opposed by the 26th article of the church of England. Yet Foxe calls him ‘ a good man, and a blessed martyr.’” Answer 1. A man may be “a good man and a blessed martyr,” and hold many opinions which would be deemed objectionable. Who will venture to say, that any one of the primitive or later martyrs, or archbishop Laud, or Cranmer, or Polycarp, or any other witness for the general mass of christian truth, would deserve our approbation in every opinion they had possibly formed on the points controverted among Christians? A man of holy and blameless life, worshipping Christ as divine, and holding the common faith, must be deemed “a good man, and a blessed martyr,” if he dies for religion, or no martyr ever existed. On referring, however, to Foxe, we find only that, as he had related the whole trim of Thorp, he adds, to use his own words, “We thought it not meet to leave out a treatise which came into our hands, under the name and title of His Testament; which treatise, by the matter and handling of it, might seem to be counted a complaint of vicious priests.” The paper is then given, and it proves, on inspection, to be what Collier describes it. It condemns the priesthood, but it relates to a period which, we may trust, has for ever gone by. If Collier had applied its remarks to the clergy of whom Foxe spoke, and considered only the period to which they applied, Collier would have agreed with Foxe. The censure against the popish clergy of the time in which Thorp lived, when Arundel was archbishop, and when Thorp was tried, we may justly thank God, is not applicable to the present day. Collier applies generally, the remarks which Thorp applied to the clergy of his own day more particularly. Foxe does not approve, either in this instance, or in the instance of Wycliffe, Huss, or any other of his martyrs, of all the sentiments they uttered. He relates their opposition to Rome, their opinions, and their martyrdom, in the same manner that Collier himself might have done: for, in the present instance, Collier himself says of Thorp, that, notwithstanding “Thorp was mistaken in some points, and his spirit too much embittered, he seems free from the impressions of interest, and boldly prepared for the worst that could happen.” Collier could not say less; Foxe did not say more. Objection 2. Collier objects to Foxe’s mode of treating the history of Sir John Oldcastle. F355 Answer 2. “Oppression maketh a wise man mad.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7.)
If a man wished to worship his God and Savior only, and not a saint or the Virgin, he was a heretic and a traitor, and deserved death. There was a meeting of the oppressed. The oppressors called the meeting a rebellion. The public records prove the fact of the meeting of a few men, but they do not prove the crimes of intended treason or regicide.
The matter has been already discussed even to tediousness. “Foxe,” says Collier, “by questioning,” (and, he might have added, justly questioning, and therefore throwing great doubt upon the proofs,) “does but discover the strength of his wishes, and the bias of his inclination. I have no desire to charge this historian with insincerity, yet it is plain that his prejudices and passions governed his pen in some cases.” Objection 3. Collier censures Foxe for the mannner in which he has discussed the narrative of Augustine’s conversation with the British bishops. “Foxe,” says Collier, “acknowledges that Augustine wrought miracles; and then he speaks of him with very coarse language for not rising to the Welsh bishops, in calling Augustine ‘ his lordship so high, so heavy, and so proud.’” F356 Answer 3. Foxe’s credulity in believing Augustine’s miracles justified him in anticipating from Augustine greater humility. There is a want of philosophy in this conduct of Foxe which Collier has not noticed, and which I shall not stop to discuss. But, without losing any of our respect for Augustine, as the ecclesiastic who, with all the faults of his age, had all the goodness of his age, we are compelled to confess that his demeanour towards the christian prelates who, as bishops, were equal, by the ordinance of Christ, either to the bishop of Rome, or to Augustine himself, was not very conciliatory. There were seven bishops present; no bishop accompanied him . F357 It was at least ungracious in him not to rise on their approach, and they might well argue, that a man who would thus act towards them would soon assume the authority of a master. His answer to them, upon their refusal to receive his mission, is most intemperate. Gregory himself appears to have found it necessary to keep in subjection this spirit of Augustine, by reminding him that he had no authority over the Gallican bishops, and “that he ought not to put his sickle into another man’s corn.” F358 He was also cautioned against being too much elated with his success. F359 These historical facts, we may believe, had not escaped Foxe, and they might draw from him the sentence with which Collier is so scandalized. Yet Collier himself admits that Augustine “had some of the infirmity of human nature about him; that he gave too broad signs of his superiority, and pushed his claims too far.” F360 Foxe expresses this very same sentiment, but he uses more plain language than Collier. Objection 4. “Foxe states that king John among divers conditions belonging to him, had one which is not in him to be reprehended, but commended rather, for when the king saw a fat stag broken up, he said, ‘How easily and happily he has lived, and yet, for all that, he never heard any mass’” f361 Answer 4. On referring to the passage in Foxe which Collier condemns, I find that while Foxe was unjustifiable, Collier is uncandid.
The expression of the martyrologist is — “the popish mass.” This Collier omits. That which Foxe would not reprehend in king John is, to use his own words, “that being far from the superstition which kings at that time were commonly subject to, he regarded not the popish mass.” Then follows the profane allusion to the stag. Yet nothing can justify language of this kind. Collier was right in condemning it; Foxe was wrong in approving it. But Collier informs us, in the next paragraph, of the reason for which he thus criticizes the language of the martyrologist, and it is only another specimen of the unfairness with which Foxe was treated. “I had passed over,” says Collier, “these exceptions against Foxe, if he had not taken the freedom to blemish the public records.” This accusation made me search very carefully to see whether Collier alleged any one single proof whatever of its truth. He mentions none — not one! I, therefore, deem the assertion itself, after the opposite testimony which I find, to be an insufficient demonstration of its truth. Collier, like the great majority of his school, had a “personal dislike” to Foxe’s book. He goes on, in the same paragraph, to insinuate, for he does not affirm, that Foxe did not carefully distinguish between “martyrdom and treason.” He meant to say, between heresy and treason, which he well knew could not be done, for the laws of Henry IV., the ecclesiastical authorities, the people, and the influence of the priesthood upon the people, had identified the two crimes; and the act of parliament at Leicester identified them by the public law. Objection 5. “ Foxe says that a council may depose a pope, and illustrates it thus: ‘For like as oftentimes kings which do wickedly govern the commonwealth and exercise cruelty are deprived of their kingdoms, even so ‘tis not to be doubted but that bishops of Rome may be deposed by the church.’” f364 Answer 5. Collier was a Jacobite, and believed, with certain of our modern Oxford theologians, that the people of England had committed a sin, when they made their deliverer from the assumption of irresponsible authority in church and state, and therefore from tyranny and despotism, their ruler instead of James the Second. Foxe does not tell us that kings ought to be deposed; he certainly infers that such deposition is not criminal, when they violate their own laws. This question is one of those on which silence is better than discussion. Our theory, that the king can do no wrong, will ever, I trust, prevent the future necessity of such discussion. We may hope that no popishlyaffected sovereign will ever again call forth the national indignation and jealousy; more especially as we are not governed by an individual or person only, but by three estates of the realm, of which an individual is but one; and the ordinances of men to which we are required to submit, as Christians, for the Lord’s sake, make the individual sovereign supreme, according to known laws and well-defined institutions. But Foxe was not wrong in the principle which his Jacobite critic condemns, — “that in every well-ordered kingdom, it ought especially to be desired that the whole realm should be of more authority than the king, which if it happened contrary, it were not to be called a kingdom, but a tyranny.” Collier calls this a republican topic. It is the truth, which has been abused to republicanism, and to all kinds of folly and wickedness; but it is the truth which is implied in every text of Scripture, which gives duties to the sovereigns as well as to the people; and it is the foundation of, ‘ill the greatness, freedom, and prosperity of the English monarchy itself; which is so protected and so limited by the laws, that while it can do no wrong, it can do much right, and secure the love, without incurring the hatred of the people. Objection 6. “Foxe,” says Collier, “misrepresents Wolsey, by charging him with using the expression, ‘Ego, et rex meus;’ whereas he was charged only with the presumption of uniting the king’s name with his own, and even then placing the king’s name first; — ‘The king and I would you should do this.’” Answer 6. Foxe charges the cardinal with using the expression in his letters to Rome. Collier refers to the articles of impeachment; Foxe to the popular accusation. Foxe gives only the summary of the allegations against Wolsey in eight short sentences. F365 Collier gives the whole impeachment in more than four folio, double-columned, pages. F366 The only error of Foxe is, that he mentions the popular accusation, as if it had been one of the actual articles of the impeachment. Objection 7. Foxe is censured for representing cardnial Wolsey as the pattern by which we are to judge and censure the hierarchy in general . F367 Answer 7. If Collier had observed the marginal note in Foxe, he would have seen Foxe’s meaning more plainly. Bilney, of whom Foxe is speaking, was indignant at the “pomp and pride of the pope mid cardinals;” and from them he turned to censure “the bishops and clergy.” Both Bilney and Foxe, if they did censure the hierarchy, could only refer to the contemporaries of Wolsey; and I am sure that Collier himself, if he had reflected, would have joined in that condemnation. Objection 8. Foxe says, that those who murdered cardinal Beaton were stirred up to do so by the Lord; and Collier justly asks, whether the Lord stirs up men to wrest the sword out of the magistrate’s hand, and whether stabbing a nobleman is a proof of divine impulse? Answer 8. Foxe calls the crime a murder, and therefore he condemned it. But Foxe, in common with some men in all ages, was too much accustomed to attribute any unexpected retribution to the immediate interposition of God. He uses the common language of all parties in the day in which he lived, in thus assigning to the providence and agency of God, the actions of men which seemed to inflict a punishment, corresponding to the greatness of a crime. I condemn all such language, as most unjustifiable. Objection 9. “Foxe calls Gardiner ‘an insensible ass,’ and says that he had no feeling of God’s Spirit in the matter of justification.” Collier mentions this because there is a vein of satire and coarse language running through the Acts and Monuments. F369 Answer 9. Foxe wrote with the impetuosity of a man who felt the importance of his subject, remembered the past, and trembled for the future. It is certainly considered coarse language now to call a bishop “an insensible ass.” When he said that Gardiner had no feeling of God’s Spirit in the matter of justification, Foxe perhaps means that the bishop’s conduct proved that he was not accepted in the sight of God. I can only observe that the language of all controversialists, with few exceptions, at that time, would not be endurable at present. I am defending Foxe’s veracity, not his taste.
Objection 10. Foxe is censured for comparing the alarm which took place among the guards, at the execution of the duke of Somerset, to that which seized the officers of the high priest when they seized our Lord. Collier calls this an odd, not to say profane, parallel. F370 Answer 10. This was the style of writing of the time. The simile is between the alarm which arose, in both cases, and not between the person of our Savior and the duke. F371 Objection 11. Foxe is charged with being inconsistent, in sometimes praising the duke of Somerset, sometimes pointing out defects in his character and conduct. F372 Answer 11. This is a proof of his sincerity; he praised what was laudable, and censured what was blameworthy. F373 Objection 12. Foxe is censured for having been so calm when describing Wyatt’s rebellion. F374 Answer 12. He calls it a rebellion; that marks his opinion of its character. The exact mode of dealing with a subject, especially negatively, is no ground of criticism. F375 Objection 13. Foxe is censured for attacking the duke of Suffolk’s servant, and calling him “traitor.” F376 Answer 13. Is not that man a traitor who betrays a trust imposed in him? The man might be no traitor to the crown, since it was his duty to reveal treason; but he was a traitor to his master, and that doubly, since he had promised to keep his secret. F377 Objection 14. Foxe is censured for affirming that the insanity of judge Morgan was a punishment for having condemned lady Jane Grey. F378 Answer 14. This is another instance of the feeling mentioned before, respecting Heaton; and the same answer applies f379 Objection 15. Foxe is censured for ridiculing the prayers made when it was supposed that queen Mary was likely to present the nation with a prince. F380 Answer 15. He ridiculed the mistake, not the prayers; others did so; there were satirical verses composed on the occasion. F381 Objection 16. Foxe is censured for the marginal note placed opposite the passage last mentioned. It was, “Cry up louder, you priests; peradventure your God is asleep.” F382 Answer 16. This custom of clothing our political opinions, or controversial conclusions, in the language of Scripture, is common to the bulls of the popes, the sermons of puritans, papists, high churchmen; low churchmen, and to every sectarian who ever formed an opinion either in religion or politics, and who took that part in public discussions, which entitled him to address his brethren. The bulls of the popes more especially abound with this mode of affirming the conclusions or opinions of the writer. F383 Foxe’s allusion is made to Elijah’s reply to the priests of Baal. I pass no opinion on the expediency of this custom, because the right, or wrong, of so quoting the holy Scriptures, must depend on each particular instance, when the quotation is made; but Foxe only observed the universal custom of all, and every party; and he ought not to be too severely condemned. Even lord Clarendon quotes the sacred writings in that manner which illustrates his own views of historical events; as the puritans, against whom he wrote, quoted other texts to illustrate more ignoble views. Objection 17. Foxe is censured for misrepresenting Ridley’s letter respecting auricular confession. Ridley approved of the practice. Foxe, in the margin, says that confession is to be made by way of asking counsel, and thus gives a different colouring to Ridley’s meaning. F384 Answer 17. Foxe has not meddled with the text, but left it to speak for itself. Ridley and Foxe agree in the main points, viz. that confession is expedient, not absolutely necessary; and that the priest is the adviser, not the judge, of the penitent. In these points, both differed from Rome. Foxe’s “asking counsel,” too, is implied in Ridley’s terms, “instructed, reproved, and comforted;” how could the latter be given without the former having taken place? I see no contradiction. I see only a marvellous anxiety to prove Foxe in the wrong. Objection 18. Foxe is censured for praising -Elizabeth for her forbearance, though she had permitted Sampson and Humphreys to be deprived. F385 Answer 18. I see nothing to censure here; if it be meant by Collier as a censure, it is a very pointless one.
This terminates the objections of Collier; and I rejoice to find that though this nonjuring divine disliked the labors of John Foxe, he was too honest to lavish upon him the abuse which that “personal dislike” originated, with Andrews, Parsons, and others. In the single instance in which he accuses him of destroying documents, he gives no proof of the truth of the charge; and my respect for Collier compels me to believe that he too hastily credited the slander of Parsons. He justly condemns the deficient taste, and the unmeasured language, which sometimes characterise the pages of Foxe; but he has said nothing to disprove “his veracity and.fidelity;” the points in which alone the reader is interested, and with which alone I am concerned to deal. I accept the silence of Collier on these points, as a proof that nothing of any great importance could be alleged by him against either; and the martyrologist, therefore, escapes from this ordeal also, unharmed and scatheless. His authority is not shaken. His book is not proved to be valueless. Our fathers and their sons who esteem it are not yet proved to be fools. 3. Robert Parsons, Or Persons, The contemporary, and the most unsparing and inveterate of the enemies of the church of England, and of the antagonists, therefore, of John Foxe, is the next on my list of the assailants of “the veracity and fidelity” of the martyrologist. I beg the more especial attention of the reader to the labors of this remarkable jesuit. Distinguished when tutor of Baliol, for six years, as the most learned and zealous of the opponents of popery, and as the most indefatigable introducer of protestant books into the college library, he changed his religious principles; and became the consistent and conscientious papist. He transferred to the church of Rome the same zeal and devoted attachment, which he had hitherto dedicated to the church of England. He believed, and he acted upon the belief, that the bishop of Rome was the divinely-appointed head of the church of Christ, and that he possessed, as such, the power to excommunicate, not only subjects, but kings and princes, if they refused submission to his supremacy. It was beautifully said of Fletcher of Saltoun, that he would have given his life to serve his country, but he would not have done a base thing even to save it.
With Parsons, and the other jesuits, half the saying is true — they would have given their lives to serve Rome, but they believed they might do many base things both to serve, and to save it. The mistakes of the conscientious are the tares in the. field of the church. Such was Parsons. He believed that if the bishop of Rome excommunicated a prince, such prince is from that moment deposed, and his subjects are freed from all their oaths of allegiance; and not only so, but that they might and ought to remove him from his authority, as an apostate, a heretic, a forsaker of Christ, and an enemy to the common-wealth. F387 This doctrine, as I have elsewhere formerly shown, was taught in the canon law — preached by the jesuits — approved by their superiors — and acted upon by their agents and partizans. The queen of England had been excommunicated by the bishop of Rome. The curse of Pius V. had been denounced against every member of the church of Rome who obeyed her as queen after the 25th of February, 1569. The northern rebellion took place in England in the same year. Dr. Story was executed in 1570, for the plot to organize a foreign invasion of England. The Spanish ambassador fled the country in the following year, on having been detected in a plot against the life of the sovereign, to whom he had been sent as the messenger of peace: conduct which violated the law of nations. Rebellions were planned and broke out in Ireland, on the same account, in the year 1574, two years after the massacre of St. Bartholomew in Paris, and in the very year when Parsons changed his principles, resigned his tutorship, and proceeded to Louvaine, Padua, and Rome. The history of the reign of Elizabeth derives its principal interest from the fact that England was the protector of the Christianity of antiquity and of the reformation, against the novelties, and the unchanging errors of Rome, — and that one universal war, both of secret conspiracy and open violence, was maintained against her, to restore the ascendancy of Rome and the supremacy of its bishop over the church and state of England. And England never fulfils its high destiny more certainly, as the benefactor and example to mankind, than when it thus acts as the defender of the true faith against the “world in arms.” Three times already it has thus been honored. It defended Christianity against popery, though all the power of the continent was arrayed against it, in the reign of Elizabeth. It protected the same faith against the same enemy, and against the armed continent, in the reign of William. It rescued the common Christianity against another enemy — the French infidelity, when the continent was again armed for the destruction of England. It is greatest in the hour of the greatest danger, when it thus remembers its lofty rank.
Many, however, even of its own subjects, in the reign of Elizabeth, did not comprehend this high destiny of their country; and the danger of the sovereign was greater at one period from the domestic traitor, than from the foreign enemy. One bond of religious agreement united both. Both were sincere. Both were the enemies of England. The papist of the continent was joined together with the papist of England. Both believed that the end justified the means. Both imagined that he who killed a royal heretic, did God service. Both changed their “religion into treason, and their faith into faction.” Both were convinced that they would save their own souls, and the souls of others also, if they could overthrow the heretical state, and the heretical episcopacy of England. Both were persuaded that the destruction of protestantism in the church, state, and people of England, was essential to the happiness of mankind, and the honor and glory of God; and that such destruction, therefore, was to be accomplished by all means, and at all hazards.
No one individual, with the exception perhaps of Edmund Campian, was more deeply impressed with these convictions, than the jesuit Robert Parsons, after he forsook the church of England, and his tutor-ship at Oxford. Having been admitted into the society of the Jesuits, in the year following his leaving Oxford, he devoted his great talents, his profound learning, his fierce zeal, his restless turbulence, and his ardent piety, to the cause of the canon law, and the bishop of Rome, as the rule of the discipline, and as the supreme head, of the church of Christ. He is the most illustrious instance on record, that the Romanists are most zealous in their hatred of the church of England, when they are most pious and most religious: and, therefore, that, in the same proportion as they are to be respected for their sincerity, they are to be dreaded, till they change, for their mistaken enmity to the true Christianity of the gospel and church of Christ. Parsons, immediately on his change of principle, surrendered his soul and body to the work of destroying the purer religion so successfully established in England. He procured the changing of the hospital at Rome, founded in the reign of Mary, into a college, or seminary, for English students: where an oath was taken by the pupils to assume holy orders, and to return into England to convert the English to Romanism. He then ventured, at the risk of his life, to come to England with Campian, to communicate to the adherents of the church of Rome, a dispensation for their outward obedience to the queen, till the time arrived when they might throw off the mask; but he entirely put an end to the custom of attending the parish churches, which had hitherto prevailed among them in spite of the bull of Pius V. absolving the subject from his allegiance to the queen.
The Romanist laity would have remained the quiet obeyers of the laws, if the influence of the jesuits and of the priests had not been exerted to render them disobedient and rebellious. Having succeeded in these great objects, and being in danger of apprehension through the vigilance of Burleigh, he returned to the continent, and to the college at Rome, of which he was now made the superior; and in the year 1587, while the armada was being fitted out for the destruction of the church and state of England, he went to Spain to encourage the invasion of England, to assert the title of the Spanish Infanta to the crown of Elizabeth, and to require the English students and priests in Spain to support the Spanish claim. He procured the expulsion of those English youths from the jesuit colleges, who refused to be employed against their country; and when the Armada, with its thumbscrews and other instruments of torture, had, by God’s mercy upon us, totally failed, he endeavored to form a continental league against England, in favor of the queen of Scots. He attempted to induce the king of Spain to make another effort: and when that failed, he was no less indefatigable in endeavoring to excite rebellions in England, and to organize confederacies against his own country, under the duke of Parma, the king of France, and the king of Spain. When the chief Romanist ecclesiastic in England, the archpresbyter of England, as the bishop of Rome styled him, Blackwell, had taken the oath of allegiance and supremacy to James the First; father Parsons, as the prefect of the English mission, deprived him of his office. He obtained a brief from Paul V. to deprive all priests who took the same oath. He increased the jealousy of the government against the papists. He prevented the possibility of union among the English, by rendering the more moderate of his own party hateful to the more zealous; while the common people, who abhorred the thought of popery, identified the moderate with the zealous. He obtained more influence over the members of his church than any ecclesiastic of his age; and the effects of that influence still remain in the institutions for the education of the partizans of Rome, at Douay, St. Omers, Lisbon, Rome, and Spain; yielding a constant supply of agents for that schismatical and papistical intrusion, into the dioceses of the protestant episcopal church, which is impertinently called “the English mission.”
Against the efforts of such men as father Parsons and his successors, the English people not only opposed, with success, the laws of the state, the discipline of their church, the freedom of their institutions, and the intense love of truth which has ever characterized the Saxon race; but they opposed also the one deep conviction which was principally enforced upon the public mind by the labors of John Foxe, that the dominion and supremacy of Rome, were alike fatal to liberty, religion, and the common happiness; that it always had persecuted, whenever it was able; and that it always would persecute, by punishing with bodily torments blameless opinions, or undoubted truths, if it again had the power to do so. While the labors of John Foxe, therefore, remained unassailed, the zealous jesuit perceived that he must despair of succeeding in his endeavors to recommend the supremacy of Rome to the common people. The continent was arming; the armada was sailing; but Foxe was read in the churches and in the houses of the people; and the voice of lamentation, mourning, and woe, which sounded from the scroll of that prophet, awakened alike the patriotism, the fears, the gratitude, the piety, and the sterner courage of the people. Foxe fanned the flame at home, which darted forth its fires of indignant bravery, and armed the nation both against the Spanish invader, and the papal traitor. When Parsons, therefore, perceived that every intrigue had failed — that the Armada was defeated — that plans of foreign invasion and of domestic treachery had proved alike abortive — he attempted, but too late, to destroy the reputation of the book which had so long excited the people to the love of antipapal freedom, and antipapal truth. Parsons was already well known as an author, and was justly reckoned among the best writers of the age. He had published his Discourse on the Reasons why Catholics should refuse to go to their Parish Churches; his Defence of the Mission into England; and the Christian Directory. He had published also that book, which, from that time to the present, has rendered his name most familiar to the students of the political history of England, the “Conference of the Next Succession to the Crown of England.” F392 He now resolved to attack the ponderous volumes of John Foxe, to proceed through the whole work, and to undeceive the people, if he could prove the martyrologist to be in error. If it had been possible to have shaken the confidence of the English in the details given by Foxe, it would have been done by father Parsons. He had abundant opportunity to collect materials from among the surviving relations, friends, or enemies of the victims of the Marian persecutions.
Talent, zeal, the command of the public attention, bitter hatred against the church and cause he had deemed it right to forsake, — all combined to render him the fittest person to test the “veracity and fidelity” of the martyrologist; and he has compiled a work from which nearly all succeeding writers against John Foxe have borrowed their chief materials.
It is comprised in five volumes, written with great care; and it is essential to the completeness of this survey of the assailants of John Foxe to review the whole work of father Parsons. The subject indeed is exhausted, but I will proceed with the details of this principal attack on the martyrologist as briefly as possible.
The five volumes were published, with the license of his superiors, in 1603. The slavery in which the papistical authors rejoiced, did not allow them to obtain the privilege of publishing controversial works without permission. He did not, however, prefix his own name to the volumes. He had written or compiled, in 1694, the Conference on the Succession of the Throne, under the reigned name of Doleman. In 1599 he published a reply to a treatise of sir Francis Hastings, under the title of “A Temperate Wardword.” He combined the reigned name and the allusion to this lastnamed treatise, in his title-pages to the five volumes, and published them as the work of N. D., author of the Wardword. It is difficult to assign reasons for his doing so, as the name Parsons was as well known as Doleman. As to his attack on the “Acts and Monuments,” it resembles that of other Romish assailants. He does not discover, as we might have expected, errors in the facts or narratives of John Foxe, — the point in which we are principally interested. He deals less with facts than with opinions. He takes for granted the certainty, infallibility, orthodoxy, antiquity, and undoubted truth of every opinion he has formed, and every conclusion at which he has arrived; and he freely expresses his no less undoubted conviction that all who differ with him in these conclusions are in damnable error. His work is compiled, therefore, against the opinions rather than against any discovered errors of the martyrologist; and Foxe is dealt with throughout, not according to his conclusions, not according to his researches, not according to his facts and narratives, — but according to his agreement with father Parsons.
The title to the first volume of Parsons is — “ A Treatise of Three Conversions of England from Paganism to Christian Religion; the First under the Apostles in the first age after Christ; the Second under Eleutherius and Lucius; the Third under Gregory the Great and King Ethelbert; divided into three parts, and dedicated to the Catholics of England, with a Blew Addition to the said Catholics on the News of the late Queen’s Death, and Succession of his Majesty (King James the First) to the Crown of England. By BY. D., author of the Watchword.”
Deuteronomy 4:23, is quoted as the motto — “ Inquire of antient tymes before you,” etc. etc., or, as it is rendered in our translation, “Ask now of the days that are past, which were before you,” etc.. etc.. It is the text which is usually quoted by those who would clothe in the language of the Scriptures, their opinion that the fathers were wiser than the sons, in retaining opinions, which the softs may be supposed anxious to reject.
Foxe’s name is not mentioned in the title-page.
The book opens with an account of the general contents of the treatise, which he divides into three parts, all of which he declares to be written against Foxe. The first part, concerning the three conversions, he informs us “was begun against sir Francis Hastings, but it is enlarged against John Foxe, his false Acts and Monuments.”
The second part “searcheth out the beginning, state, and progress of the protestant religion from age to age, and is against the whole course of John Foxe his said Acts and Monuments, from Christ’s tyme to this, especially against the former part thereof, from the primitive church downward to the tyme of king Henry the Eighth.”
The third part “examineth more particularly the second volume of Foxe his Acts and Monuments, wherein he treateth of new martyrs and confessors of the church, placed by him in an ecclesiastical calendar.”
Vol. I. — He dedicates the first volume to the catholics of England, meaning by the word “catholic” the papal, not the antipapal Christians of the country; the true episcopal, anti-arian catholics. In this dedication he lauds their “loyal behavior of duty towards their temporal prince in all worldly affairs.” Yet he calls Elizabeth their “old persecutor,” and expresses his hope in an additional paper, that James would become a convert to papalism. After a preface on the general subject of Christianity, he begins by stating, that the scope of the work is to show that, upon three several occasions, England has received the christian faith from Rome; first, under the apostles; secondly, under Eleutherius; and thirdly, under Gregory; and that the faith: received at each period was identically the same as that of modern Rome. The argument is this. St. Peter came to Rome in the third year of the reign of Claudius; Claudius went into:
Britain; there probably were many Christians at Rome at this time; it is probable that some of them would go with him into Britain. Christianity would necessarily extend in England in proportion with its extension in Rome. At page 14, he conjectures that St. Peter himself may have preached here.
This is the amount of his proof, upon which we need not waste many words; for, admitting that all his conjectures, as to the fact, that many Christians came from Rome to; Britain, were undoubtedly true, as I believe they were, we have not the shadow of a proof that they taught any other doctrines than those which the antipapal church of England teaches. This is not the place to discuss the question, yet I shall observe here, that even Baronins, A.D. 35. Section 5, quotes a MS. in the Vatican, which says that Joseph of Arimathea founded our church. Gildas says that the light of Christianity reached us “tempore sumtoo Tiberii Caesaris.” Now, Tiberius died 17 cal. April, A.D. 39. (Sueton. in Tiber. cap. 73;) and Baronius fixes the origin of the church of Rome,15 cal. Feb. A.D. 45. (Baron. A.D. 45.
Parsons then enters upon a long discussion, the object of which is to prove that the Britons did not at the beginning differ from the Romans in the celebration of Easter, but that this error arose at a comparatively late period of their history. It is unnecessary to follow him through all this.
The second part begins with an account of the conversion under Lucius by pope Eleutherius. The whole story is mysterious. Its truth depends upon the authority of Gildas. From him it is adopted by Beda. Usher has already shown the chronological difficulties with which it is beset, and his work should be consulted. It seems strange that, if Lucius had Roman teachers, and conformed to the church of Rome, there should have been such a prejudice in the minds of the British bishops against Augustine, and that there should have been such striking differences in doctrine and discipline. The speech of Colman gives us a key to the whole, by referring the origin of the British mode of celebrating Easter to St. John.
From Ephesus it came to Gaul, and from Gaul to Britain.
All the subsequent discussion upon this question may be safely omitted, for we cannot argue upon the doctrines of Lucius when we have no documents whereon to rest a single opinion; though Foxe is called the “jangling Foxe” for rejecting the supposed tradition.
The conversion under St. Augustine follows, and it is the most important discussion of all, as far as Foxe is concerned. At the outset it must be admitted that Augustine and Gregory have scarcely had justice done them by Foxe. He seems to have been afraid of them. It is very important for us to admit the authority of Gregory, since he is a highly valuable witness against Rome as she is now. Yet Parsons admits that Foxe sometimes did Augustine justice. On the next page he is displeased with Foxe’s impartiality in first praising what he considered a miracle, and then finding fault with his hauteur towards the British bishops. Yet this is the true way to estimate character; Foxe neither blindly praised, nor blindly censured.
I may add here, in reference to the miracle mentioned by Beda, (and admitted by Foxe,) that the person on whom Augustine performed it, was an Angle; that the proposed proof of the superior claims of Augustine was suggested by Augustine himself, and that the Britons were unwilling to have their orthodoxy tested by such a criterion. If all Augustine’s miracles were of a similarly doubtful character, they do not make out a strong case for him.
At page 206, Parsons enters upon his proof that we owe all our religion to Rome, through Augustine. Even if this were true, it proves nothing; but it is not true; for he carefully conceals the fact., that, excepting Kent, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk, the whole of England was converted by the Scottish monks, who were essentially the same in doctrine and discipline as the British. There is also another error which runs through the whole argument; it is this — he argues for the truth of modern Romanism, from the truth of primitive Christianity. (See pages 216, 217, etc.) Foxe is abused in every page for affirming an opposite opinion; but his Pacts are not disputed.
Parsons now passes rapidly over the history of England from Augustine to William the Conqueror, pausing only to notice the liberality of Canute in the building of monasteries, etc. He forgot to mention that Canute’s bad title made him glad to have the aid of the clergy. At the beginning of his reign he had seen bishops and abbots in the field of battle against him, and he knew their influence too well to despise it. Nor do we hear anything of the liberties which Canute took with the clergy in legislating for them in spiritual matters, such as celibacy, fasts, and festivals, etc.
The remainder of the volume is a general outline of what is afterwards to be discussed in detail. The only thing which appears to be worthy of notice is the quotation made from Riche’s Speech, which is said to prove that “the heart of the people was wholly against these innovations in religion, at the commencement of the reformation.” If the quotation and inference are correct, we may set against them the better testimony of Tunstall, in his letter to cardinal Pole, where he says that the body of the English nation was weary of the papal yoke. Yet even in this very page where the opinion of Foxe is condemned, he is quoted as an authority, whose “veracity and fidelity” may be depended upon, when he relates the facts of history.
Vol. II. — We come to volume the second. The arrangement of Parsons’s materials is here somewhat confused. He professes to inquire where the protestant church was, up to the time of Henry VIII. The volume exhibits the usual assumptions, false premises, false conclusions, etc. which the Romanists always employ when treating this question.
In page 277, he discusses the importance and value of the apostolical succession, against the notions of Foxe and others, on the invisibility and visibility of the church. As we by God’s mercy have retained the succession, without its errors, it is unnecessary to enter upon the question, which, as far as Foxe and Parsons are concerned, is rather one of metaphysics than theology.
Parsons reasons absurdly about the relative bulk of the different parts of Foxe’s history. His history is of course fullest upon those passages respecting which he had the fullest information.
The next hundred pages are taken up in an attempt to show that the faith generally professed in Europe (not in England particularly, for Parsons owns that there are no documents for this) was the same as the modern Romish doctrine. This belongs to the general question between the two churches, and is not connected with Foxe.
At page 352, Parsons begins with Gregory and Augustine; and at page 362, he proceeds to test Foxe’s historical accuracy, by examining his account of the proceedings of one council, and detects two errors at the outset; one in the date, A.D. 680, instead of 673, and another in the place — Thetford instead of Hertford. In the first, Foxe is certainly wrong; he probably confounded the council of Hertford with that of Hatfield, which last was held A.D. 680: in the second it is doubtful, for the place is not exactly known, and “Herutford,” as written in the MS., might have been as like “Thetford” as “Hertford”; and Henry of Huntingdon says “Thetford.”
Here I meet with the first charge of any real importance against Foxe. It is the accusation of a wilful falsehood. The case is this: - The council of Whitby had decreed that Easter should be observed in England in the manner adopted in the church of Rome. The council of Thetford, or Hertford, or Herutford, confirms that decision. Easter-day was commanded to be the first Sunday after the fourteenth day of the new moon, in the first month of the year. The words of Beda are — “Ut sanctum diem Paschae in commune, omnes servemus dominica post quartam decimam lunam mensis primi.” Foxe relates all the decisions of the council in an abridged form. Parsons accuses him of so translating the above words of Beds, as to lead his readers to believe that the council decided against the Roman custom of keeping Easter; thereby to justify the oriental error. “Foxe,” says Parsons, “without shame or conscience, putteth in, or putteth out, what he thought best, to make these fathers speak in favor of a condemned heresie. ” F396 This is a serious charge. Let us first extract the very words of Foxe. The decree of the council was, says Foxe, — “That Easter-day should be uniformly kept and observed, through the whole realm, upon one certain day, videlicet, prima 14 luna mensis primi.”
The accusation of Parsons is, that “Foxe leaves out the word. dominica; and then for ‘post 14 lunam,’ written at large in Beda, he putteth in ‘prima 14 luna,’ short, in numbers only, to make it more obscure, adding ‘ prima’ of his own; and putting out ‘post’ from the words of the council, thereby to make the sense more clear in favor of the heresy. For that prima 14 luna mensis primi, the words do signifie the fourthtenth day of the first moone of March expressly. And moreouer, he addeth of his owne these words, upon one certayne day, which the decree hath not.
Meaninge thereby that this 14 day must be obserued with such certainty as it may not be alterred or differred to any Sunday; but must be obserued as an immoueable feast.” F398 I accept these remarks of Parsons as a proof of his anxious desire to find some undoubted inaccuracy in Foxe; and of the difficulty of his doing so.
Foxe has not in any respect altered or falsified Bede. His translation does not vary from that of Bede. By omitting “dominica,” and giving “prima,” he gives the same sense with Bede, who omits “prima,” and mentions “dominica;” whereas both words ought to have been mentioned by the two writers. The oriental opinion respecting Easter-day was, that it might fall on any day of the week, provided only that it was observed on the third day after the fourteenth day of the moon, in the appointed month. There is not one allusion whatever in Foxe to prove that he adopted the oriental opinion; or that he desired to insinuate, in this instance, that the Roman custom was incorrect. The adopting the word “prima,” even though the word “dominica” is omitted, makes the decision of the council more clear, rather than more obscure. If he had written “tertia,” instead of “prima,” there might have been some apparent foundation for Parsons’s objection.
The omission of the word “post,” and writing “14,” instead of “quartam decimam,” has nothing to do with the question. Parsons’s allegation is therefore an indefensible mistake.
In page 367, we are presented with what Parsons calls one of Foxe’s garbled quotations. Foxe is quoting the proceedings of the same council, on the subject of the celibacy of the clergy. The council decided that no man should put away his wife, but for the gospel reasons; and if he did even this, if he wished to be considered a more perfect Christian, he would not take another. Foxe omits the latter part of the decision of the council. He might otherwise have been led into the discussion of the doctrines of celibate perfection so curiously maintained by Rome; for the words of the council were, “si Christianus esse recte voluerit nulli alteri jungetur,” etc.
Here is no garbled quotation. He quoted sufficiently for his purpose, and proceeded to other matters.
In page 370, Parsons is angry with Foxe for omitting the proceedings of another synod. It might have been inserted for aught of Romanism that it favors.
Now page follows after page, of most indefinite and vague matter respecting the faith of the church of England. A few quotations from contemporary authors would have been worth all this declamation. He goes on without alluding to anything which tells against the popedom; nothing of William’s answer to the pope, nothing of Henry II., nothing of Grostete, nothing of Edward I. nor Edward III. All are avoided; and nothing is said to invalidate Foxe.
In page 547, Parsons commences his survey of the reign of Henry VIII.
Both facts are true. He was a reformer, because he threw off the papal yoke; and yet he was not a reformer, for he retained all the doctrines of Rome, excepting some very important ones, respecting the use of the Scriptures.
In page 576 there is the same matter as we shall find in Harpsfield about Colyns, Cowbridge, Erasmus, Mirandula, etc.; and the remainder of the volume is a general history of the times. He does not attempt to deny one single martyrdom mentioned by Foxe, nor to show that in any one fact connected with these cruelties he has departed from the truth; and this is the sole and only question, which is in the least degree interesting to the modern reader.
Vol. III. — We are brought to the Third Volume. The general object of the whole of this volume is to prove that those individuals whom Foxe has inserted in his calendar as martyrs (witnesses of the truth) were, in reality, executed either for opinions which we would reject as heretical, or for treason, or for some crime against the government of the land. I have already commented on the use of the word “martyr.” Foxe calls Wyclif a martyr. In the usual acceptation of the word, the reformer was not so; he was a confessor. Yet he may be justly called a martyr.
The temper with which this volume is written will appear from a few extracts. In the account of John Tudson, whose martyrdom is placed by Foxe in his calendar on the 14th of January, Parsons observes,-”John Tudson, falling to be a ghospeller, was so obstinate and arrogant as the bishop of London was forced at length to condemne and burne him, under queen Mary.” And of another poor victim he says,-”being obstinate in divers hereticall opinions, but especially about the sacrament of the altar, he was burnt also for the same, in Smithfield, after many means first used to reclayme him.” And again, — “ a poor labouringe man, borne at Histon,.. married at London, and there becoming a ghospeller, fell to be so forward in sowing and defending Calvinian opinions, as lastly he was burnt for the same, in Smithfield.” And again, we read of “a poor woman burned at Canterbury, under queen Mary; “ the next were “two willfull poore women, also burned at Canterbury.” Of other victims, “the first was an artificer, the second a poore ignorant woman, and burned for like opinions with the former.” And so we might go on, page after page, noticing the poor ignorant men and women put to death. No fact recorded by Foxe is denied. The victims are ridiculed and despised, because they were poor, vulgar, mean, and low. The wretched bigot could not see, that whom the world most scorns, God most honors; whom the world most hates, Christ most loves. (1 Corinthians 1:26-28.) See especially, at the end of the “Foxian Calendar” in this volume, a notice of the lowly condition of these witnesses, so put as to excite contempt or ridicule.
Parsons now sets about justifying these enormities, and this he does by laying down two propositions, viz. — 1. It was necessary justice, and no cruelty, to punish such wilful and malignant people. 2. Constancy in a “sectary” is not constancy, but pertinacity.
He then proceeds to justify the second of these positions, by proving that it was the theory of the fathers; and to do this he quotes several passages from their writings. All is penned on the radical error of assuming that the Romanists are the church, and the protestants are without (extra) the church. Too much time would be consumed, if I were to refer to all his quotations; but I am by no means persuaded, that he has done justice to these venerable writers; the passages are, probably, either not to the purpose, or require explanation by the context. I judge thus from the first of his quotations — that from Cyprian de Unitate Ecclesiae. I there find some disingenuous dealing with the original.
The translation by Parsons is, — “Whosoever is separated from the church, and joyneth himself to an adultresse conventicle, is separated also from the promises of the church, nor euer shall he come to enjoy the rewards thereof if he leaue her; he is an alien, a prophane person, an enemy; he cannot haue God for his Father, that hath not the church for his mother; yea, though he should be slayne for the confession of Christ’s name, yet can he not be saued; macula ista nec sanguine abluitur. This crime of separating himselfe from the church cannot be washed away with bloud; inexpiabilis culpa nec passione purgatur, it is a fault unex-piable, nor can it be purged by death itselfe.”Such is Parsons’s translation. Now, Cyprian is speaking of the catholic church: — “Quisquis,” he says, “ab ecclesia segregatus adulterae jungitur, a promissis ecclesiae separatur, nec perveniet ad Christi praemia qui relinquit ecclesiam Christi. Alienus est, profanus est, hostis est. Habere jam non potest Deum Patrem, qui ecclesiam non habet matrem.” So far Parsons goes with Cyprian, inserting, however, the word “conventicle,” — translating “perveniet” by “ever shall he come,” — and making the “praemia” mean the rewards of the church, not the rewards of Christ, as the text requires. To have pursued the quotation would not have suited his purpose, for the following words would have shown that those who are here condemned are such persons as knowingly and artfully separate themselves from the unity of the catholic church. But Parsons proceeds as if the remainder of his quotation were in immediate connection with what I have now cited. It is not so. What I have already quoted is in page 121 of my edition; the remainder is in page 126. It is as follows: — “Tales etiamsi occisi in confessione nominis fuerint, macula ista nec sanguine abluitur, inexpiabilis et gravis culpa discordiae nec passione purgatur.” Here Parsons’s words, “yet can he not be saved,” are an interpolation, perhaps a natural inference from what follows; but what would have been said if Foxe had been found so tampering with a translation? To come to the text itself. Parsons omits the word “tales.” One would have been tempted to ask who, these “tales” were; and on turning to the context we see that a definition of them is given. They are such as have not charity. (1 Corinthians 13:2,5,7, 8,) “Ad praemia Christi, qui dixit, (John 15:12,) pertinere non poterit qui dilectionem Christi perfida dissensione violaverit.” Such, then, are those excluded from the rewards; and the whole is a paraphrase of the sentiment of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13; but by this dishonest mode of tacking together two disjointed sentences, a different sense is attached to it.
The second extract is equally misquoted and misinterpreted. It is this — “He cannot become a martyr who is not a member of the church, neither can they euer come to Christ’s kingdom who do forsake his spouse which is there to raigne. Though tyed to stakes they burne in flames, and be consumed with fiar, though throwen to wild beasts they be by them deuoured — non erit fidei corona, Bed poena perfidiae sit.” In this quotation a large portion is omitted between the words “raigne” and “though,” which would have given it a different colouring.
That Foxe was faultless we are not concerned to maintain. Thus, he did not (in my opinion) do justice to More, to say that he well deserved his bloody end. It was not judicious to compare Tyndale and Frith to St. Paul and Timothy. Yet I do not see that Parsons brings any proof of inaccuracy, still less of fraud, against Foxe; the differences are the differences of the church of Rome and England, and here Foxe may be permitted to have his opinion as well as Parsons. At page 524 he accuses Foxe of “sundry kinds of falsehood and untrue dealing, and divers kinds also of lies, some historical, some doctrinal, and other like.” We have a specimen of the nature of these at p. 527, such as “the following 4 lies about justification,2 about hope and charity,10 about good works by the pope’s law,3 about freewill and good works, etc.” In all these, the only “lie” consists in a differing from the doctrines of Rome. The “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe are still unimpeached; and there are no other observations on the martyrologist worthy of notice, till we may close the volume.
Vol. IV. — The Fourth Volume proceeds with the continuation of the examination of Foxe’s Calendar, with that of the church of Rome in juxtaposition, from July to December inclusive. Prefixed is “The Epistle Dedicatory to the glorious Company of English Saints in Heaven” who are supposed to be dreadfully scandalized by the bad company into which Foxe has brought them. They are supposed also to have attained heaven by “fasting, watching, large prayer, lying on the ground, and other such chastisements; “ but not one word on the merits of our Savior. On the next page there is a sneer at faith. F401 The Calendar itself goes on as before; there are no charges of any inaccuracy brought against Foxe, excepting such as having written Brenbridge instead of Brenbricke, (31 July.) Robert Purcas instead of William Purcas, (20 August.) This is satisfactory as showing how little could be corrected, and that nothing could be denied. Parsons is not accurate; e.g. he says that Ridley was a native of Northamptonshire.
Parsons takes care to repeat the caution to the reader, guarding him against sympathizing with these poor men and women thus put to death: he says that it was necessary justice and no cruelty, and further, that they were influenced by pertinacity, not constancy.
I find very little which requires notice after this, excepting the mode in which Parsons deals with the history of Marbeck. Parsons has the candour to admit that historians “may have many false informations.” He goes on to say that he does not often bring accusations against Foxe upon matters of fact, (would he have hesitated had he been able?) but is most indignant about his lies, “which lyes cannot any wayes be excused, whereof you shall see above 120 in one chapter afterwards, (see page 412,) taken out of less than three leaves of his Acts and Monuments, and thereby perceive the credit that may be given to John Foxe his narrations.” These “lies” are those on points of doctrine mentioned in the last volume, and have been already noticed.
In page 362 he commences a long disquisition upon the power, the right, and the obligation of punishing heresy with the sword; and affirms, that this sword is in the church. Parsons professes, indeed, to have been moved with compassion for the sufferers: but he suppressed the feeling as improper. If the question be raised at all, it is only in reference to the expediency of the case; and this expediency is questioned only from the want of success of the persecutions under Mary. His interpretation of the parable of the tares, is the necessity of caution in rooting up the heresies, which are the tares. This is the most important passage in the whole treatise. His interpretation is defended from Augustine.
In page 397, Parsons attributes the supposed errors of Foxe to want of judgment, or to mental weakness, rather than to malice; and mentions some infirmities of mind to which the martyrologist was subject, such as, that he imagined himself to be glass, or earthenware, or a bird, — circumstances which proved his brain to be diseased. These things are not mentioned by Foxe’s other biographers, and we have now no means of ascertaining their truth. In page 400, speaking of Foxe’s errors, he says that many of them have already been specified, (we have seen how many!) and that further proof is given of his errors in the 19th chapter. This chapter contains the above-mentioned charge, that Foxe has told one hundred and twenty lies in three pages. These lies, we have seen, are not perversions of facts, but alleged misstatements of doctrines. All the charges of Parsons are equally vague and unfounded.
In pages 400 and 403, are some passages worthy of remark, as showing the result of Foxe’s work, which would appear to have been great. At page 401, the fact of it being placed in the churches is mentioned. Parsons attributes the success of the book to the variety of the history itself, — the plates of the martyrdoms,rathe hypocrisy of the writer, which is clothed in seeming frankness, — the speeches attributed to the martyrs,- the greatness of the book, — and the placing it in the churches. He assures us, that this miserable man, John Foxe, and his abettors, will have to yield a strait and heavy account to their Redeemer, at the most dreadful “accoumpting day,” for the infinite spiritual hurt which they have rendered to the souls of their countrymen. He assures us, (page 404,) that one effect of Foxe’s book is to make men have no religion at all; while in page 405, he informs us that this Fox-den book is only fit to make madmen of fools, and heretics of ignorant people; and he exhorts his countrymen to lose no more time in reading his vain pages. This advice his poor foolish countrymen have not hitherto followed. One reason may have been, that it was then submitted to them by the papists. The same advice has been lately enforced upon them by their brother protestants, who hate the name by which the public law describes them, and prefer the opinions of Robert Parsons to those of John Foxe. I make no remarks on the coarse language which the jesuit has sometimes adopted; only commending it to the notice of the Churtons and Tylers, who find Foxe’s language so “painful.” And thus we close the fourth volume.
Vol. V. — The Fifth Volume of Parsons is occupied solely with an account of the disputations mentioned by Foxe as having taken place between the Romanists and the Reformers. According to Parsons, the former are always right and the latter always wrong. On these I shall only observe, that, in page 17, Parsons could get no other copies of these disputations besides those preserved by Foxe: and this very fact proves to us the great value of Foxe’s work as a storehouse of materials. The whole volume is entirely dogmatical and polemical, having nothing to do with Foxe. It requires no special notice. And so the whole subject ends. No great facts are overthrown. The “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe are still unimpeached; and we may justly believe, that if the attack of Parsons, his inveterate and learned contemporary, has failed to depreciate his work, that they will still remain, not unimpeaehed, but certainly unimpeachable.
With respect to the character of Robert Parsons, I have assigned to him the credit of high motive and good intentions. I am not ignorant that pope Clement himself is said to have called him — a knave; the jesuit Fitzherbert — a hypocrite; the secular priests — the worst of villains; f403 and that the Quarterly Reviewer, Southey, the protestant writers generally, and even the greater number of the papal authors, have deemed him to be unworthy of approbation. I cannot, however, after reading his Christian Directory, come to these conclusions. I believe rather, that he was sincerely convinced that he was doing God service by every act of treason which he committed against his native country and against the church of England. I am convinced that he believed the truth of the passage I have already quoted from his work on Foxe; that he believed in the damnation of Foxe and of his abettors; and that he thought that he should be the cause of saving many souls from everlasting perdition, if he could have surrendered England to Spain, rendered the Armada successful, and made his native country a province to the king of Spain, and its church a tributary to the bishop of Rome. The same principles have uniformly led to the same results. The more zealous adherents to the church of Rome, who always obtain the ascendancy over their more quiescent brethren when controversial excitement is greatest, have ever regarded their obedience to the laws of God, as identified with their own submission to the foreign bishop; and they have as uniformly believed that it is no less their bounden duty to convert their countrymen to the same opinion, and to reduce them to the same yoke. They have been convinced, with Parsons, of the truth of the papal maxim, that it is necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the bishop of Rome.
They believe, with father Parsons, that the council of Trent, in its catechism, as it is still taught at Msynooth, in Spain, and by Dens, speaks but the truth, when it declares that heretics and schismatics are still under the jurisdiction of the church. The belief in these and similar principles sent the Armada against England, and excited numerous rebellions and insurrections in England and Ireland from the reign of Elizabeth to the reign of George III. Such belief on the part of the papists demands, even to this hour, on the part of the protestants, the most vigilant and persevering jealousy against the holiest, the best, most pious, and worthiest Romanist.
If the church of Rome still produce a pious, holy, virtuous, papal priesthood, then let England beware of the popery which would betray the protestant church and state to the church and creed of Rome, to please the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even now, in our own day, language has been used respecting the propriety of appealing to the foreigner, — of withholding assistance, in the event of a war, from our own sovereign, — and of bringing England once more under the yoke of Rome, — language which I will not repeat, as I wish to say nothing which may appear to relate to the peculiar divisions of the day in which we live; but if Rome does not, will not change, — if the same principles, which our fathers believed to be the “worst of superstitions and the heaviest of all God’s judgments,” are continued, — if the worst maxims of the ancient canon laws are still taught, — if the general conviction be true, that a class of zealous, enterprising partisans are ever actively employed, secretly, yet perseveringly, to imbue the minds of all whom they can influence with the doctrines in question, — if these things are so: then let England beware, lest other domestic enemies are found who shall imitate the example of the jesuit Parsons, and betray their country to the foreigner, to please God and to extend the church of Christ. If Rome does not, and will not, change the principles on which this man acted, — and if similar religious principles, always, in the same circumstances, produce the same effects, then the experience of the past requires us to continue our ancient jealousy, — to beware of popery, — and to value, next to the holy Scriptures and the sacred liturgy of our protestant episcopal church itself, those writers who paint in their proper colors the consequences of the adoption of the principles of papistry. If Rome does not, and will not, change, every day and every hour deepens the conviction, that jealousy of Rome is still a duty; and the study, therefore, of the volumes of John Foxe, and of all, who, like him, enforce the evil consequences of the dominion of Rome among us, is still both a duty, and a privilege. 4. Nicholas Harpsfield, The learned Greek professor at Oxford, in the reign of Mary; archdeacon of Canterbury; brother of Bonner’s chaplain; one of the defenders of the papal cause in the conference held at the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth; but more especially distinguished for his knowledge of the canon and civil law; is the last whom I shall mention among the assailants of the “veracity and fidelity” of the martyrologist. His zeal and bitterness against Foxe were equal to his learning. F409 He refused, at the accession of Elizabeth, to comply with the queen’s injunctions, and was deprived of all his preferments: he was committed to the Tower, where he remained twenty years, and died in 1583. Dodd assigns no reason for this imprisonment. F410 He would have us to infer that it was the result of the cruelty or caprice of the queen. Chalmers tells us that his zeal for popery occasioned the loss of his appointments; and that he appears to have been afterwards imprisoned. Chalmers, like Dodd, assigns no cause for his punishment. Fuller says he was imprisoned for denying the queen’s supremacy. F412 This does not, however, seem to be a sufficient cause; as many denied the supremacy who were not molested for their opinions.
The mystery appears to be solved by a passage from the Lansdowne MSS. We there find, among the notes and additions to Anthony Wood’s memoranda on Harpsfield, a letter from the council to sir Thomas Fynch, and George Maye, one of the aldermen of Canterbury, that Harpsfield was guilty of disorderly and seditious conduct. We may therefore justly infer that it was on this account Harpsfield was apprehended and committed to the Tower; for the queen was certainly never guilty of any unnecessary harshness; and she desired, especially at the beginning of her reign, to conciliate and not to irritate the papists, While he was in prison he wrote the celebrated Six Dialogues against the reformation and the reformers generally. The first five were written principally against the Magdeburg Centuriators. The sixth was chiefly directed against Foxe.
Harpsfield was imprisoned soon after the queen’s accession, in the beginning of 1559. Elizabeth came to the throne on the 17th of November, 1558. The Magdeburg Centuriators was published very early in the reign of Elizabeth; and one of the first copies, therefore, must have been conveyed to Harpsfield in the Tower, together with the first edition of Foxe. We have no means of ascertaining what number of books were collected by the prisoners for religion in the Tower at this time; and what portion of the references, therefore, were made from memory, or from inspection: but the work is a wonderful production, under such circumstances. It is, indeed, possible that some part of it was compiled by the editor, Alan Cope, under whose name it was published, at Antwerp, in 1566, and whose name, as editor, is in the title-page. At the end of the book are printed ten large Roman capitals; they are — A. H. L. N. H. E. V. E. A. C.
They are thus interpreted: — Auctor Hujus Libri Nicholaus Harpesfeldus, Edidit Veto Eum Alanus Copus. F415 It does not appear that the suppression of the name of the author prevented the general knowledge of the fact that Harpsfield was its writer. A letter is still extant among the Harleian manuscripts, from Laurence Humfrey to Foxe, informing him of the publication of the book; in which he mentions Alan Cope’s name, but not that of Harpsfield. F416 Foxe knew that the work was written by Harpsfield, for he entitles a part of his reply to the Dialogues, “A Defence of the Lord Cobham against:
Nicholas Harpsfield, set out under the name of Alanus Copus.” F417 As this work was printed very soon after the publication of the Martyrology, by the bitter enemies of its author, while the contemporary witnesses of the principal matters which are related by Foxe were still alive, it is, I think, evident, that the zeal, activity, rage, and hatred, of the papal party would have collected any facts which could have destroyed the reputation of the work. The language of Harpsfield against Foxe is everywhere most abusive. The Acts and Monuments are said to abound with blasphemies and lies. The blasphemies are the antipapal propositions. The lies are the reports of the courage, constancy, sufferings, and testimony of the papal victims against the faith and discipline of Rome. F418 I shall go through the whole dialogue, by first giving the abstract of the forty-six sections of which it consists, and then by considering the principal charges which he alleges against the accuracy of the narratives of the martyrologist. Foxe deeply studied the pages of Harpsfield, and replied to his chief accusations. It will be seen that the result of our examination of the charges of Harpsfield, the more immediate contemporary and severest enemy of Foxe, will afford us the last and most triumphant reply to all the attempts to depreciate the value of his pages. Whoever will take the trouble to read Harpsfield, will find that he is very diffuse and indefinite, as well as abusive, and that his indefiniteness renders it very difficult to meet his objections. Vague and general expressions, accusing an author of lying, blasphemy, misrepresentation, injustice, and other literary crimes, prove only the hatred or anger of the writer who uses them, unless they are supported by specific facts and instances. The survey, therefore, of the table of the contents of his sections, and the consideration of the particular circumstances to which he may allude to prove their truth, will enable us to decide whether Harps field has been more successful than any of the assailants of Foxe whom we have already considered.
The forty-six sections of the Sixth Dialogue occupy two hundred and sixty-two closely-printed Latin quarto pages. They are the chief foundation of all that Parsons or Andrews have written, and much of them has, therefore, been already considered. The briefest possible statement of the contents of the sections will be sufficient to show the indefiniteness of which I complain.
Chap. 1 . The cause, not the fortitude, of the victim, makes the martyr.
In what true fortitude consists. 2. Foxe enrols criminals among his martyrs; as in the case of lord Cobham and his followers. 3. The pseudo-martyrs commit themselves to death to obtain the praise and glory of martyrdom. 4 . They ought not, therefore, to be called martyrs. 5. But to be detested. 6. They are not conscious that they are heretics. 7. Why one error makes a heretic. 8. Though Cyprian might err without heresy. 9. The folly of the declaration of the reformers, that the whole world began to see the true light. 10. On the causes of the multiplication of sects. 11. They will decline as the Manicheans and others in former times. 12. The martyrs and pseudo-martyrs contrasted. 13. Why the title of martyrs ought not to be given to the opponents of Rome; and whether the ancient prophets, the Maccabees, and the Innocents, are entitled to that name. 14. Sectarians, mutually opposed to each other, cannot call each other martyrs. 15. The absurdity of denying the greatness of the differences between the Zuinglians and Lutherans. 16. Yet Foxe blends all opponents of Rome in one mass, and eulogizes Lutherans, Zuinglians, other heretics and criminals, in one indiscriminate mass as martyrs. 17. Falsehood of Foxe in the case of Cowbridge. 18. The Lutherans cannot be martyrs, because Luther recalled from the bottomless pit many ancient heresies. 19-25. The follies, etc. of Luther and of Lutherans. 26. Foxe is ridiculed for his respect for Erasmus. 27. And for including Mirandula among his martyrs. 28-30. Foxe’s account of Wycliffe condemned. 31-35. Attacks on Luther and the foreign reformers. 36. Credulity of Foxe condemned. 37. Eulogy of Foxe on Cobham condemned. 38. Some improbabilities in the accounts of the martyrs censured. 39. On the story of Baynam. 40. Comparison between the martyrs of Foxe and of antiquity. 41. On the Hussites. 42, 43. On the controversies respecting the headship of the church. 44. On the martyrs for the church of Rome. 45. That true martyrs are found only in the church of Rome. 46. On the true catholic church. Arguments from Augustine to strengthen the weak and confirm the wavering. The manner in which heretics are to be treated.
Such is the brief abstract of the chapters of which this sixth dialogue is composed. It will be seen from this, how little of the whole treatise is devoted to Foxe. Even of the small portion which is thus given to the martyrologist, much has been answered by Foxe himself.
I will consider throughout the replies of Foxe, and the arguments (if the objections of Harpsfield may be justly called by that name) which his antagonist has adduced against him.
At the end of the fifth dialogue, Harpsfield anticipates many of his subsequent remarks by deriding the account of the patience, joy, and selfpossession related of many of the martyrs by Foxe. It is useless to record how one clasped his hands three times above his head in the flames; another remained unmoved, as a token to his friends of his adherence to the conviction of the truth of the opinions for which he was condemned; others gave other expressions of their attachment to their opinions in their most intense sufferings. Harpsfield, like Andrews and Parsons, derides such narratives. Foxe compares, and exults in the comparison, such sufferings with those of the martyrs of antiquity. Harps field is very indignant at this. It is, however, impossible to discover the difference either in the suffering, the endurance, or the cause, between the two.
Harpsfield calls it an unjust comparison, and surnames the victims mentioned by Foxe, pseudo-martyrs; but he assigns no reason whatever for his doing so.
After some preliminary remarks on the nature of true martyrdom, and refusing the glory of martyrdom to the pseudo-martyrs, and calling them the slaves of the devil, rather than martyrs, we come in the sixth dialogue to the accusation against Foxe, that he is guilty of falsehood, for placing among his pseudo-martyrs the names of men who had no claim even to the honor of such martyrdom as he would assign to them; for they suffered for crimes, and not for opinions. Harpsfield enumerates the following names, — Cromwell, Hales, Randal, Tonley, S anders, Cranmer, Cobham, Acton, Wyatt. These are inserted by Foxe among those who bore witness to the truth of antipapalism, but who are called by Harpsfield traitors, thieves, and rebels. F421 With respect to Cromwell, Foxe tells us, that with his last breath he declares that he died in the catholic faith. The distinction between catholic and papist was very frequently maintained at that time as well as at present. Many, who were apprehended and burnt for antipapalism, called themselves catholic; and were still condemned for denying some of the anticatholic doctrines maintained by the church of Rome. Cromwell is called by Foxe the “noble and worthy lord.” Foxe disbelieved the charge of treason, which was never proved; and ranked him among the witnesses against Rome. Harpsfield does not venture to say that the “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe’s narrative of the actions and death of Cromwell are erroneous; and this is the chief point we have to consider. Judge Hales drowned himself in madness, vexation, or despair, on account of Mary’s conduct. He was sent into the Marshalsea — removed to the Counter — then to the Fleet; where he was so agitated at the report of the cruelties reported by the warden to be contriving against the antipapists that his reason fled. He endeavored to destroy himself with a penknife. He was afterwards released; but he never recovered his reason, and drowned himself. F422 Hales was the only judge who had refused to sign the instrument which gave the crown to lady Jane Grey. He was imprisoned for charging the justices of Kent to conform to the unrepealed laws of Edward; that is, he was imprisoned for being a protestant. Did not Foxe rightly eulogize him as a martyr — as a witness for the truth of the gospel, as it is now professed and taught in the Anglican, protestant, reformed episcopal church? Randal hanged himself, and therefore Foxe is condemned by Harps-field for placing his name also among the martyrs for the truth. Harpsfield, according to the custom which Mr. Maitland condemns so severely in Foxe, does not give his references with sufficient clearness. I cannot find any person of this name, to whom the observations of Harpsfield are applicable. A person of the name of Randal was compelled by the bishop of Lincoln in the year 1521 to do penance for abetting the heresy of Thomas Man. Both he and his father were required to abjure their errors, but I do not read that he hanged himself. Foxe is condemned for inserting Tonley among his list of martyrs, whereas Tonley was hanged for theft.
This appears to be a most serious charge; yet it is capable of explanation, and that explanation is a complete vindication of the martyrologist. F423 John Tooley, as Harpsfield informs us was executed for a robbery attended by violence. Yet he is placed by Foxe among his martyrs.
Harpsfield is quite right. Tooley was hanged for theft; and Foxe has made him a martyr; and if the two facts are thus put together without any further explanation, the martyrologist appears to have been guilty of the greatest possible absurdity. Let us, however, consider all the circumstances which Harpsfield has omitted. Tooley, while he was in prison, or before his execution, was brought to a better state of mind. Immediately before he was hanged he addressed the people, and declared that he died a true christian man, and that he trusted to be saved only by the merits of Christ’s passion, and shedding of his most precious blood; and not by any masses or trentals, images or saints, which he said were mere idolatry and superstition. He added much more to the same effect; and appealed to the people who agreed with him, to say Amen, — which they did, three times.
But this was not the beginning of the matter. The queen’s council heard of the dying words of the culprit; and they were actually guilty of the unpardonable folly (Foxe believes under the influence of Cardinal Pole) to do in the case of the dead body of Tooley the same as was done at Oxford respecting the dead bodies of Bucer, of Fagius, and of the wife of Peter Martyr. They issued a commission to Bonner the bishop of London, to inquire into the matter, and to proceed to the making out of the process provided by the ecclesiastical laws in that behalf. F425 The bishop of London acted upon the mandate. He issued a writ or mandate to the clergy of London, — called Tooley the son of perdition and iniquity, — and charged them to summon the relations of Tooley to show cause why the dead man should not be excommunicated; and after certain depositions and attestations of witnesses, the dead body was actually excommunicated, unburied, and burnt. All this Harpsfield has omitted. Foxe does not say one word to eulogize the man. He merely records the facts from the registers to which he refers; and places the name of Tooley among; his list of witnesses against Rome, to direct the attention of the reader to the follies and absurdities connected with the observance of the old canon law in the instance of the exhumation of the criminal. In a part of his reply to Harpsfield, Foxe expressly says that his table of names against Rome was never intended to denote that ALL whom he enumerated were holy persons; but that the reader, by seeing their names, might be reminded of the facts he has related. F426 Does not this explain the whole matter? Does the martyr-ologist deserve censure, even when the name of a thief, under such circumstances, is found among his list of witnesses against the papal follies? Sanders, Cranmer, Cobham, Acton, and Wyatt, whom Foxe has also added to his list, are called by Harps field rebels, and not therefore martyrs. Laurence Sanders is called a rebel, I believe, because he rightly and justly refused obedience to the queen, when she commanded the clergy of the apostolic church to cease from preaching. He not only refused to obey, but he persevered in preaching against the errors of the papistry, which was so rapidly returning to curse the protestancy of England. He refused to leave England. He preached the one only true doctrine, which is in itself the sole refutation of all popery — the justification of the spirit of the sinner by the faith, which is founded upon evidence, and is the motive to obedience.
F427 The bishop of London sent an officer to charge him to attend him, on pain of disobedience and contumacy. When Sanders obeyed, the bishop accused him of treason for disobedience to the queen’s proclamation, questioned him on the old test of papalism or antipapalism — the doctrine of transubstantiation; and concluded the conference by committing him to prison. The result is well known. His beautiful letters are still preserved.
His distrust of his own firmness, — which, however, endured to the end, — when Pendleton, the boaster, who assured him of his own superior firmness, fainted and apostatised; his perfect freedom from every thing like enthusiasm; his sober zeal for the truth; his dying salutation to the stake, “Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life;” — all combine to prove to us that he possessed the only true spirit which can ever conquer the threatening domination of the now reviving papacy, and preserve the primitive Christianity which is still established among us. Harpsfield, in this instance also, does not deny the accuracy of the narrative of Foxe.
With this we must be contented; though he calls Sanders a rebel. Cranmer, too, was a rebel. I shall say no more of his melancholy and wellknown story, than to observe, that Cranmer was murdered by the papists — Laud was murdered by the puritans. May the archbishops of Canterbury study their lives, avoid their faults, and be prepared for their deaths; in defense of the same church which still holds its place between the puritan and the papist, and deserves the homage of its children and servants, even to the death of the stake, or of the block! The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. The seed of the church of England is the blood of antipapal and antipuritan martyrs. May the flowers and the fragrance of learning and of truth ever spring from that seed! and may the fruit of the seed of the blood of the martyrs, and the flower and fragrance of its learning and its truth, be, holiness to the Lord — holiness on the mitres of its rulers — holiness on the robes of its priests — holiness on the bells of the horses and the bowls of the altars (Zechariah 14:20.) — holiness on the heads and hearts of the sovereign, clergy, and people! Cobham and Acton were rebels; and, therefore, they also could not be martyrs.
I am sure that the reader of this protracted examination into the charges which have been made against John Foxe will rejoice to be referred to the defense which Foxe himself has made against the accusations of Harpsfield in the case of lord Cobham. I had promised to proceed through the whole detail; but I am sure my doing so must unavoidably prove uninteresting.
The question is, was Cobham arraigned as a traitor or as a heretic? The answer of the papal party is, that he was executed as a traitor, because of the affair in St. Giles’s Fields. The antipapal party deride the notion that the meeting in St. Giles’s Fields was a political meeting of twenty thousand men suddenly gathered together, as Walsingham and others affirm; but declare it to have been a religious meeting of comparatively few numbers. They assure us, also, (and the evidence upon this latter point cannot be contradicted,) that heresy was identified with treason; so that he who was guilty of opposing any one doctrine taught by the church was held to be guilty of an act of treason against the sovereign. The question has already been discussed. I must be contented to refer the reader for further details to Foxe’s discussion of the case of lord Cobham against Harpsfield. F428 He refers to the original indictment, and proceeds to inquire into and to demonstrate the improbability that lord Cobham intended or desired to destroy the king, or the estates of the realm. He shows how treason and heresy had long been identified by the priesthood.
He examines the accounts of the several witnesses against Cobham — Fabian, Polydore Virgil, and points out their disagreement with each other.
To the general accusation by Harpsfield, that his book was full of lies, he answers, “I would to God that in all the whole book of Acts and Monuments, all the narratives of this nature were false, all were lies, all were fables; I would to God the cruelty of you Catholics had suffered all them to live, of whose death ye do now say, that I do lie.
I deny not but that in my book many things may have escaped me, yet I have bestowed my diligence, to profit all men, but to hurt none.” F430 The question of the calendar is then discussed. Foxe declares, that he arranged the names of his martyrs according to the days of the month, to serve as a table, by which to remind his readers of their testimony, not to displace from the other calendar the names of the truly wise, good, and holy men, who may have been justly placed there. Parsons and Andrews, as well as Harpsfield, exhaust every epithet of vituperation on Foxe, for his thus arranging the names of his victims in a calendar. Yet on this point also, his reply is unanswerable. F431 Harpsfield accused him of thrusting God’s saints out of heaven into hell. No! he answers, I thrust none down to hell. Yet I am not like the great godmaker of Rome; I exalt none to heaven. You are the men who, like the giants of old, would scale heaven; and then to place there the traitor, and the enemy of God; and make even Becket’s popish blood, a ladder to enable men to climb there also: while you thrust down from heaven the true saints of God, even those who die to serve him, and lay down their lives against his enemies. I am sure that neither the names of the archbishop Thomas Becket, nor of the archbishop Thomas Cranmer, deserved to be placed in the same calendar with the holy evangelists and the apostles; but if we are compelled to have either, the days are at hand when we must decidedly prefer Becket, or Cranmer. You encumber, says Foxe, your calendar with saints. ‘You place among them men of the most questionable character; and you derogate from and degrade the honor of Christ as the only Mediator, when you beg these canonized traitors — whose only claim to notice, as in many cases mentioned, was their slavery to Rome — to intercede at the throne of God for the dupes who worship and pray to them. As to the accusation, that in printing the names of his martyrs some were printed in red letters, he assures us that this was done at the discretion of the printer. After some further general defense of his book, and solemnly asserting (I have already quoted the passage) that if “a lie be a wilful intention to deceive, then I protest to you, master Cope, and to all the world, that there is not a lie in my book:” and after some observations on the manner in which the church of Rome has perverted the testimony of the fathers; he goes on to prove most unanswerably, against Harpsfield, that treason and heresy were identified by the statute law of the land before the execution of Cobham; as they had long been identified by the bishops, and under their influence, by the people, before his arraignment. He quotes the words of the letter of Walden, the provincial of the Carmelites, to pope Martin, that all the followers of Wycliffe, as being equally traitors to God, and traitors to the king, should be punished with the double punishment of burning at the stake on account of God, and hanging at the gallows, on account of the king. In his book on the catholic faith, the same writer exults in the same conduct of Henry the Fifth. The illustrious king, he says, decreed, that every man who was proved to be a Wycliffite, should be punished as guilty of treason. F435 The same undoubted fact may be proved by other quotations. I subjoin only two more from the historian Roger Wall; the noble king, Henry V. he says, reputing Christ’s enemies to be traitors to himself, to the intent that all men might without doubt know, that, so long as he lived, he would be a true follower of the christian faith, did enact and decree, that whosoever should be found followers and maintainers of this sect, which is called the Lollards, should be counted and reputed guilty of treason against the king’s majesty. The king in consequence of this very statute, and of his inveterate hostility to the Wycliffites, was called by the ecclesiastics of his age, the Prince of the Priesthood. “O true friend!” f436 says his eulogist, “who taketh and reckoneth that injury done to himself, which is done to his friend; who reputeth that to be to his own prejudice which is done to the prejudice of his friend.” That is, Henry treated the actions, opinions, and worship, which he was taught by the priesthood of his day to believe to be against the cause of Christ, as treason against himself, as the friend of Christ and of his church: and thus heresy and treason were, as Foxe proves, identified. F437 But it may be said, by some one who is ignorant of the details of the lamentable period of which we are speaking, perhaps the king was right.
What were the Wycliflites, and of what crime were they guilty? The answer is, they were guilty of reading the Scriptures in their own language, without the consent of their ecclesiastical superiors. Those who studied the Scriptures, perceived the contrast between the revelation of God and those ordinances of men which were called the decrees of the catholic church. They protested against the enactment of those ordinances of man. They were punished for doing so. They refused, because of such punishments, to cease from such protesting. The severity of the punishments was increased to conquer the supposed crime, till we actually read of the burning of men to death for having read four of the epistles of St. Paul; the persons who heard them read being put to open penance; and a bishop, yes, a christian bishop, first preaching to the victims at the stake, in the presence of their own children, who were commanded to set fire to the faggots, which were placed round their suffering parents. We read, I say, of a bishop of Christ’s holy catholic church preaching to the victims, who were expecting the flames which their own children were to kindle, that whosoever they were that did but move their lips in reading those chapters, they were damned for ever. Oh, God of mercy! these were the members of thy holy church; and now, even now, in this land, where these things were done, it is deemed to be illiberal to man, uncharitable to thy people, and unjust before thee, to remember and to mention these things.
We have forgotten at what hazard the people of the church of Christ wrested back the holy Scriptures, from the hands of an ambitious priesthood; and plucked forth the sacred volume from the fires of their persecuting tyranny. Many there are among us, who are again beginning to place the traditions of men on the throne of revelation; to give to the church the scepter of its ruler; to lessen the value of the Scriptures; to forget the records which relate the eventually certain consequences of such apostasy; and to call those men bigots and fools, who would learn from the past, to direct the present, and to secure the future. Treason and heresy were one crime. The bodies of men were hanged and burnt at the same moment, that the double punishment might be inflicted at the same moment, for the double yet identified crime; and if such crimes of the ecclesiastical and civil rulers of the past are ever palliated or forgotten, the curse of the causes which occasioned them will return also. That statesman was wise who uttered the undoubted aphorism, that if the English people should ever cease to hate popery, they will cease at the same time both to love truth, and to value liberty.
Wyatt took up arms against Mary. He acted in the name of the protestant religion: he committed a great crime: he was justly punished for actual, undeniable treason. If he had confined his mode of objecting to the queen’s marriage with the Spaniard to remonstrance and petition, he would have obeyed the law, maintained the liberty of the subject, and upheld his loyalty to the prince. Christianity requires neither the confused noise of the battle of the warriors, nor the garments rolled in blood. Wyatt was a rebel. Foxe pities, but does not defend him. F439 I read on, with much patience, many most unquotable sentences on the characters of many persons who were burnt for their antipapalism, and who certainly cannot be defended for the actions which immediately occasioned their punishment, whatever be our opinion of the principles which excited them to injudicious conduct. Gardiner, for instance, after many cruelties, was put to the horrid death of having an iron hoop round his waist, to which one end of a rope, which passed over a pulley, was tied, while the other end of the rope was held by a man opposite to the victim. The pulley was inserted by a staple in the cross-beam of a gallows.
His hands were cut off. In that state the sufferer was drawn up by the rope to the top of the gallows. A fire was kindled below him; he was then slowly let down into the fire. After he had been burnt for some short time, he was again drawn up into the air. After he had thus hung some time, he was again let down. This fearful operation was repeated, while the sufferer continued to pray aloud, as they pulled him up and down with the rope, till the rope was burnt by the fire, and the body fell into the flames. All this was horrible, and because the reason of the infliction of this fearful torture proceeded from the conviction that the sacrifice of the mass was an abomination, Foxe inserts the name of Gardiner among his list of martyrs.
Harpsfield objects to his doing so; and no protestant upon earth can justify the conduct of Gardiner, by which he displayed his antipapal zeal; and brought upon himself the indignation of the priesthood. Gardiner, — it was in Portugal, — rushed through the people when mass was being celebrated by a cardinal, in the presence of the king and his nobles, snatched the wafer from the priest, stamped it under foot, and with the other hand overthrew the chalice. This proceeding was the act of a madman, and deserved to be punished with severity, or with the treatment of a lunatic. In that day the deed was considered laudable. Foxe speaks of the outrage, as a history no “less lamentable than notable,” and eulogizes the most constant suffering of the victim. The inhuman severity of the punishment would by many, on the other hand, be deemed only proportionate to the crime. Harpsfield so considered it. Harpsfield spoke of the crime, Foxe of the cruel punishment. Nothing is said by Harpsfield against “the veracity and fidelity” of Foxe. He takes for granted throughout, on the contrary, that Foxe has related these sad narratives truly. I again say, this is sufficient. I am not defending the taste, the judgment, or the opinions of the martyrologist; I am asserting only the credibility and the certainty of his histories. With respect, however, to the philosophy of these attacks of Harpsfield, I can but add, that he has quite mistaken the whole question. The detestation of the cruelty of a punishment does not imply the approbation of the conduct of the sufferer. We condemn the burning of Servetus; we pity his sufferings; we are compelled to abhor the error or duplicity of the great and good John Calvin. Yet, who in his senses can imagine, because we do so, that we approve the opinions of the denier of the blessed Trinity, and the oppugner of the divinity of Christ?
The death of Servetus made him, in one sense, a martyr; for he died as a witness to his conviction of the truth of an error. We may quote the death of Servetus as an argument against the cruelty of committing the body to the flames, because of the mistakes of the judgment; but we do not therefore approve of the mistake, though we pity the victim.
The same mode of reasoning will apply to Robert Debenham, Nicholas Marsh, and Robert King, who were executed for the felony of taking down and burning the rood at Dover Court. They are called martyrs by Foxe, and criminals by Harpsfield. Their act was rash. Their consciences were burthened, says Foxe, to see the honor of the living God given to an idol; therefore they took it down and burnt it. They derived no benefit to themselves from their conduct; they hazarded their lives to the death, and they lost their lives. The words they addressed to the people at the scaffold edified the people more than many sermons. Is not Foxe more justified in calling them martyrs, than Harpsfield in abusing them for nefarious impiety? F442 They bore their testimony against Rome, and were added to the catalogue of witnesses who died in bearing witness against her. No narration of Foxe is contradicted. The truth of all his facts is taken for granted, even where Harpsfield places in the margin of his well-printed pages, that Foxe is convicted of the most evident lying. The expression is used in reference to the character of the persons whom Foxe eulogizes, not in reference to the facts he relates; and so it is throughout.
Because the names of the victims are mentioned in the calendar, to the apparent exclusion of the saints of the Roman calendar, Foxe is charged, as I understand the argument, with raising the martyrs to the rank of saints, in the sense of such saints being intercessors for men, or mediators between God and man; as Thomas a Becket, Dunstan, St. Swithin, and other questionable characters, are entitled saints by the church of Rome. This is an entire misapprehension of the reasoning of Foxe. Some, and the great majority of the victims to the severity of the church, are rightly and justly called saints, and holy and godly martyrs; for they were persons of blameless lives, pious motives, and sincere believers in the truth of the gospel of God: others, however, though they suffered the same cruel death of the stake and faggot, were not men of this character, and Foxe, therefore, does not speak of them in the same manner. His eulogies are not indiscriminate. Harpsfield abuses Fore for inserting the names of Coilings, or Colyns, and Cowbridge, among his martyrs. Collins was burnt for lifting up a dog above his head in imitation of the act of the priest, when elevating the wafer, to insult the holy ordinance. Foxe is condemned for inserting his name among his martyrs. Cowbridge was burnt by Longland, bishop Of Lincoln, for holding many most absurd and strange notions, very contradictory to each other. They are omitted by Foxe, but are given by Harpsfield; and a proof is thus afforded us of Harpsfield’s power to have discovered any falsehoods in the martyrology, if Foxe had written any.
Among them are such propositions as these: — that Christ is not the Redeemer, but the future deceiver of the world; that all who believe in Christ shall be damned. F447 These, and ten more, are omitted by Foxe; and Harps field imputes his silence to the desire to misrepresent the orthodox Oxford theologians, who had so piously discharged their duty of causing such a wicked heretic to be burnt. F448 It certainly does appear, at first sight, that Foxe has acted unwisely in elevating these two men to the rank of martyrs, and that, in this instance, Harpsfield has decided rightly. If we refer, however, to the account of Foxe himself, we shall find that in these, as in his other narratives, he has carefully distinguished between the testimony of the wise and of the unwise, of the pious or questionable, of the persons whom he certainly places in his calendar as witnesses against Rome, but not necessarily, therefore, approvable as the undoubted saints of God. Collins is described by Foxe as a madman, who was driven to insanity by the desertion of him by a fair and beloved wife. F449 He was a student of law in London. He came by chance into the church, where a priest was saying mass. His dog was with him. He held it up by the legs; was apprehended, condemned, and burnt. F450 Foxe mentions the fact as an instance of the cruelty of his judges, in burning a madman. “I do not,” says Foxe, “recite this man as one of God’s professed martyrs yet neither do I deem him to be sequestered from the Lord’s family; and, though the flock of the bishop of Rome account him to be a heretic, and condemned and burned him, I would on that very account esteem him as belonging to the holy company of saints.” Foxe was wrong in speaking thus; for, though a man might be burned as a heretic unjustly, he might have still been an erroneous and wicked man. But Foxe does not canonize him, as Harpsfield represents. Foxe has expressed himself obscurely, and meant, I believe, that, as no other action was urged against him but this of holding up the dog, which he considered to be a proof of insanity, and as he was burned for that only, he therefore considered him as probably one of those who might be regarded, when sane, as among the pious opponents of the errors of Rome.
Foxe, has spoken in the same manner of Cowbridge. F451 He tells us that Cowbridge was out of his senses. His father, the head-bailiff of Colchester, had left him great wealth, which Cowbridge resigned to his sisters, and wandered about the country, seeking out learned men, and instructing the ignorant. For thus acting as a priest, without a license to teach, he was apprehended, sent to Oxford, and imprisoned. Famine and loss of sleep, in the Bocardo, deprived him of his reason. “In his insane moods, he uttered,” says Foxe, “many unseemly and indiscreet words.” Dr. Smith and Dr.
Coates, the Oxford professors of divinity, and the other divines of the university, reported that there was a heretic at Oxford who could not bear the name of Christ to be uttered, and therefore that he ought to be burned; and so thereupon condemned him. He was sent up to London; and the articles upon which he was condemned were sent up also. Foxe assures us that he could not obtain a copy of them, which were, that in the creed, the words “in Jesum Christurn” ought to be “in Jesum Jesum;” and that every poor priest in the church hath as much authority as the pope, or any other bishop. In reply to this, Harpsfield gives us twelve articles. Foxe replies to them all by saying, “that, as the man was mad, if the articles were so horrible as Cope, in his Dialogues, doth declare, he was more fit to be sent to Bedlam than to be had to the fire in Smithfield. But such is the manner and property of this holy mother-church of Rome, that whatsoever cometh to their hands and inquisition, to the fire it must go. There is no other way; neither pity that will move, nor excuse that will serve, nor age that they will spare, nor any respect that they will consider, as by these two miserable examples of Collins and Cowbridge doth appear, who should rather have been pitied than been burned.” F452 Who will not agree with Foxe? Who will not now (thanks be to God for the labors of the martyrologist, which have so greatly contributed to the improvement in the public mind!) approve the opinion of Foxe, rather than the arguments of Harpsfield; and pity, rather than burn, either the sane or the insane heretic? Foxe does not canonize the madman. He does, however, tell us, that “when he came to the stake, he called upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: and with great meekness and quietness, he yielded up his spirit into the hands of the Lord.” He had recovered his senses; and he is justly reckoned, therefore, by Foxe among those who, though they were not elevated to the rank of the saints-mediators of Rome, bore their testimony against the cruelty of the priesthood, and are rightly denominated martyrs.
The time would fail me to go through the long list of names whom Foxe mentions, with praise always for their testimony against Rome, though not always with approbation either for their opinions or conduct; and whom Harpsfleld, Parsons, and Andrews, as uniformly speak of with hatred, contempt, or detestation. Joan of Kent, Peter the German, John of Yesel,Ball of whom held notions which the church of England, as well as the church of Rome, condemn, — with Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bradford, Barnes, Lutherans, Calvinists, Zuinglians, Wycliffe, Frith, and others, are all classed by Harpsfield with the Manichees, the Donatists, and the enemies of God. Foxe is supposed to be the indiscriminating eulogizer of all heresies and all heretics. The same vague, general, unmeaning abuse, which spares his facts as unassailable, while it impugns his motives, opinions, and conclusions, is given by Harpsfield which we have read in Parsons and Andrews, and the same general answer must be given to it; that while the “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe are proved to be unimpeachable, we are not required to defend his taste, his language, nor his errors. I shall only, therefore, go on to examine whether any specific falsehood is produced by Harpsfield, to justify the frequent appellation, both among the papal and protestant enemies of the martyrologist, of “the lying Foxe.”
It will be said that Harpsfield, in his index, alleges seven specific falsehoods against Foxe. He does so: and when I mention them, the absurdity as well as the nature of the accusation will be seen at once. The first is that Foxe calk heretics martyrs; — this has been sufficiently considered. The second, that he makes Eleanor Cobham and Roger Onley, martyrs, and not sorcerers; a charge which he discusses at some length, and which I shall certainly leave to the student, as Foxe himself has replied to the accusation at great length. F454 It would indeed be most absurd to inquire, in this age, of the probability of the witchcraft and sorcery, by which Roger Onley, the knight or priest, labored to consume the king’s person by way of necromancy; or whether, the painted chair, upon the four corners of which hung four swords, and on every sword an image of copper, were the true instruments of magic; and whether Lady Eleanor Cobham, who desired in her treason to take the king’s life, employed Onley as her coadjutor; or whether these accusations were invented, and the real crime of both Onley and Lady Cobham was not, as Foxe from other authorities relates — an attachment to the principles of Wycliffe. I think it probable that every reader in the present day will believe the evidence which convinced Foxe that these people were guilty of holding certain opinions in religion which the priesthood of the day condemned; rather than, that they practiced the king’s death by melting an image of wax with arts magic and necromantic. F457 It was wittily said of some person, that he drew on his imagination for his facts; and on his memory for his fancy. Those who believe Harpsfield in preference to Foxe, may draw on Shakspere for their facts, and on Harpsfield, Parsons, and Andrews, for the arguments with which they may defend them. I would as easily believe the “hallowed verge” and the “conjuro to,” the “adsum” of the invoked spirit, and the answered “asmath” of Margery Jourdain, as they are so graphically related by our splendid poet; as believe in the legends of the dark age on which his dramatic scenes are written; or depend upon the authority of the papal antagonists of the martyrologist. In the very same page in which Harpsfield accuses Foxe of falsehood and of depraving history, by partially citing authorities in the case of the duchess of Gloucester, Eleanor Cobham, he dares to accuse him also of making Margaret Jourdemain, the reputed witch of Eye, the supposed assistant, and the supposed sorcerer, in his supposed ceremonies. The indignant answer of Foxe is, “I never spake, nor thought, nor dreamed of the woman, till you yourself mentioned her in your book. So far is it off that I, either with my will, or against my will, made any martyr of her.” But so it has always been. When Rome wishes to usurp domination over others, its claims to that domination always begin with doleful lamentations over the grievances it professes to suffer from heresy and heretics. When Rome accuses its adversaries of falsehood, it generally becomes itself the Cretan it describes its antagonist to be. The world has never witnessed a greater heresy than that of Rome, nor worse heretics than its adherents. Foxe is only called a liar by those who themselves excel in the peculiar accomplishment which they profess to discover in the martyrologist; and which Harpsfield, Parsons, Andrews, and their followers, have found to be so peculiarly useful in producing the conviction that their own falsehoods are truths. The third alleged falsehood is, that Cobham and Acton were not guilty of treason. The fourth, that men were put to death only for reading the Bible. The fifth is the repetition of the charge that Foxe acquitted lord Cobham of sedition. The sixth relates to an error in a date. The seventh, that Foxe denies, excepting in three instances, the heterodoxy of the martyrs. I quote these instances of alleged falsehoods, because they are more especially pointed out to us in the copious index of Harpsfield, as the peculiar falsehoods of the Book of Martyrs; but they do not appear to require further notice. I might make some remarks on the fourth charge.
Harpsfield tells us, that because no man was permitted to read the translations of the Bible in the reign of Henry VI., which had been made by the Wycliffites, without permission of his diocesan, they could not be burnt merely for reading the Bible. They read it, either with or without permission. They would not be burnt for reading it with permission. If they were burnt for reading it without permission, they were not burnt for reading the Bible, but for disobedience to their diocesan; and therefore — yes, gentle reader — therefore Foxe is a liar, for affirming that the perusal of the Scriptures was the crime of the martyrs. The reader smiles at this folly; but it is the most impressive of all warnings to us. All the controversies respecting religion among protestants, are decided by the holy Scriptures. All the controversies between Rome and the protestants, are to be decided by the church. When the partisans of the two tribunals seem to clash, the two tribunals seem to clash. One tribunal must therefore destroy, or tolerate the other. The Scriptures destroy Rome. Rome tolerates the Scriptures. But in all matters of toleration, the assumption of the power to tolerate, implies the power to remove the toleration, if those who are tolerated, rebel, or appear to rebel against the tolerator. So it is with Rome and the Scriptures. The partisans of Rome are permitted to read the tolerated Scriptures; but if the tolerated Scriptures appear to teach that partisan of Rome to rebel against the church of Rome, then the toleration is withdrawn from the Scriptures. The sanction of the diocesan is withdrawn from the reader, and the rebel is punished, not for reading, but for disobeying the command which forbids him to read. By what name is such reasoning to be called? One of the greatest crimes, one of the most intolerable usurpations of the church of Rome, is the daring claim of intruding itself between the light from heaven and the darkness upon earth; and demanding the power of granting or withholding to the blind and fallen soul, the Scriptures of the eternal truth of God. If the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness shine upon the people, it dares to tell that people, who are beginning to emerge from their darkness into that marvellous light, — “ You shall not “see at all. You shah not direct your steps to heaven, nor guide them “upon earth, by that light, unless you put on the blue, the green, or “yellow spectacles, which we will give you, to enable you to understand “better the true nature of the light itself; and to see more clearly the “road, through the wilderness, to Canaan.”
We are next brought to the story of Hunne. No one of the narratives of John Foxe has been so much discussed as this. To repeat the arguments by which one party would prove to us that Hunne was murdered in prison, while another would prove to us that he hanged himself, would occupy too much time and room. No additional evidence can be found in the present day to that which is given by Foxe in his history, by Harpsfield in his reply, by Foxe in his rejoinder to Harpsfield, and by Parsons, who discusses the whole subject at great length, Dr. Lingard, in his History of England, writing of the persecution of the Lollards, — and saying, with the utmost calmness and serenity, of the numbers brought before the primate, and the bishops of London and Lincoln, “almost all were induced to abjure; and a few of the most obstinate forfeited their lives,” — adds, in a note, — “ I have not noticed ‘the legend of Hunne,’ who was found dead in prison. To the accounts given by Hall and Foxe may be opposed that of sir Thomas More.” The smooth manner in which this historian speaks the sad truth, and prevents the possibility of our declaring him to be in actual error, while he despoils history of its utility by his mode of writing, is peculiarly conspicuous in this account. It forms one of the best illustrations of his mode of so writing history, that the reader, before he is aware, is made to take for granted the very proposition, the truth of which may be under discussion. It is certain that Hunne was found dead in prison; but the question in what manner he died is left undecided. The historian speaks of “the legend of Hunne.” What is a legend? It is something read, which is of doubtful authority. It is a narrative, not so certainly true as an authenticated history. It is a story which may be rejected. F465 Contempt of the story, too, is implied in the very word.
Lingard, therefore, implies that the account of Hunne, that is, of the usual narrative of his death, is doubtful. Dr. Lingard’s work was written to produce an impression unfavourable to the reformers; we may infer, therefore, that he means to tell us that the opinion that Hunne was murdered by the papists, is a legend. If his book had been written on the opposite principles, we should have inferred that he meant to tell us, his suicide was a legend. The account of Hall and Foxe is, that Hunne was murdered. Sir Thomas More affirms that he believes he committed suicide.
The two accounts are opposed to each other. Dr. Lingard has not told us, as he ought to have done, that Foxe was attacked by Harpsfield, and that the martyrologist has replied throughout to his assailant, in a manner which has been considered unanswerable. F466 Foxe has answered throughout, the whole mass of the reasoning both of Harpsfield, and of sir Thomas More, so entirely, that no abuse, either of Parsons or Andrews, can, I think, produce the conviction that Foxe has been guilty of falsehood in affirming that Hunne was murdered, and did not commit suicide.
I refer the reader to the account given us by Foxe himself; but I submit to him the summary of the narrative as it is compiled by Burnet. “One Richard Hunne, a merchant tailor in London, was questioned by a clerk in Middlesex for a mortuary, pretended to be due for a child of his that died five weeks old, the clerk claiming the beering-sheet, and Hunne refusing to give it; upon that he was sued, but his counsel advised him to sue the clerk in a premunire, for bringing the king’s subjects before a foreign court; the spiritual court sitting by authority from the legate. This touched the clergy so to the quick, that they used all the arts they could to fasten heresy on him; and understanding that he had Wickliffe’s Bible, upon that he was attached of heresy, and put in the Lollards’ Tower at Paul’s, and examined upon some articles objected to him by Fitz-James, then bishop of London. He denied them as they were charged against him, but acknowledged he had said some words sounding that way, for which he was sorry, and asked God’s mercy, and submitted himself to the bishop’s correction; upon which he ought to have been enjoined penance, and set at liberty; but he persisting still in his suit in the king’s courts, they used him most cruelly. On the 4th of December he was found hanged in the chamber where he was kept prisoner. Dr. Horsey, chancellor to the bishop of London, with the other officers who had the charge of the prison, gave it out that he had hanged himself. But the coroner of London coming to hold an inquest on the dead body, they found him hanging so loose, and in a silk girdle, that they clearly perceived he was killed; they also found his neck had been broken, as they judged, with an iron chain, for the skin was all fretted and cut; they saw some streams of blood about his body, besides several other evidences, which made it clear he had not murdered himself; whereupon they did acquit the dead body, and laid the murder on the officers that had charge of that prison; and by other proofs they found the bishop’s sumner and the bell-ringer guilty of it; and by the deposition of the sumner himself, it did appear, that the chancellor, and he, and the bell-ringer, did murder him, and then hang him up.
But as the inquest proceeded in this trial, the bishop began a new process against the dead body of Richard Hunne, for other points of heresy; and several articles were gathered out of Wickliffe’s preface to the Bible, with which he was charged. And his having the book in his possession being taken for good evidence, he was judged an heretic, and his body delivered to the secular power. When judgment was given, the bishops of Duresme and Lincoln, with many doctors both of divinity and the canon law, sat with the bishop of London; so that it was looked on as an act of the whole clergy, and done by common consent. On the 20th of December his body was burnt at Smithfield.” F468 Such is the summary of Burnet. I refer the reader to Harpsfield,” f469 Parsons, and Andrews, for their animadversions on Foxe’s defense.
They produce nothing new — refute no assertion — overthrow no fact.
They abuse Foxe for enrolling him among the martyrs, though Foxe carefully avoids eulogizing the religion of Hunne, and tells us that he was not “a full protestant, but took his beads with him to the prison.” Foxe relates the history as a proof that the atrocities and cruelties of the papal holders of power and authority, disgusted even their most faithful adherents; and thus contributed to prepare the way for their own overthrow, and for the establishment of the reformation. F472 As I do not find that Harpsfield has been able to prove that the “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe are assailable with success, my task may be considered as nearly concluded. The reader cannot be more interested in any discovery of the deficiencies of Harpsfield, than in those of the more modern antagonists of the martyrologist. I might otherwise point out the absurdity of his attempting to prove, by a quotation from Augustine, that every one of the pseudo-martyrs, without exception, deny that Christ has come in the flesh; because such persons have not charity, and he who has not charity makes this denial. F473 Who can reply to such a reasoner? Foxe places Erasmus among his witnesses against Rome. Harpsfield is very angry at this, and quotes many passages to prove that Erasmus spoke well of the Romanists.
Harpsfield is right in thus affirming; but Foxe is no less right. Erasmus fluctuated much in his opinions. Both parties claim Erasmus as their advocate. He spoke truths which they both received. He denounced errors which they both rejected. But that Foxe was more right than Harpsfield in deeming him to be an antipapalist may be proved from other Romanist writers, when they had no such object in view as Harpsfield when he wrote his Sixth Dialogue. Bellarmine, for instance, ranks him among the semi-Christians. In another place, he says, “Quid quaeso Erasmus Roterodamus? Annon Luciani impietatem longo intervallo superavit?” And again, he says that “the doctrine of Erasmus was not far distant from that of Wiclif and Luther.”
Erasmus himself has amply proved that he was no Romanist. In the Enchiridion Militis Christiani, can. 6. is the following passage. — “Admiror, potestatis et dominii ambitiora vocabula ad ipsos usque pontifices summos et episcopos invecta fuisse.-’Apostolus,’ ‘pastor,’ ‘episcopus,’ oflicii sunt vocabula, non dominatus. ‘Papa,’ ‘abbas,’ caritatis cognomina sunt, non potestatis: sed quid ego mare illud vulgarium errorum ingredior? ad quodcunque hominum genus se converterit, multa ubique videbit homo vere spiritualis quae rideat, plura quae fleat. Plurimas opiniones deprehendet depravatissimas, eta Christi doctrina longe lateque dissidentes.” F476 ... The whole of his treatise De Concordia in Religione proceeds upon the assumption, that the truth of the gospel had been debased by the Romanists, and that it might be purified.
In another place, Harpsfield condemns Foxe for wishing that in some respects the Reformers were as good as the Romanists.
Harpsfield condemns Foxe for inserting the name of Mirandula in his catalogue of witnesses against Rome.
Here also Foxe is right. Did Harpsfield never read the language of this nobleman to the emperor Maximilian, in 1500? — “Reliquum est, maxime Caesar, ut quae de te fide et pietate possum, deprecor, ut sanctissimum illud propositum tuum vendicandae in pristinam libertatem christianae reipublicae, quam citius fieri potest, adimpleas. Concutitur ab externis hostibus, ab internis laceratur; et J. C. Domini nostri sanguine circumseptum et consecratum ovile pejora multum perpessum est, indiesque patitur a lupis magis sub ovina quam propria pelle grassantibus.
Age igitur jam, optime; et excitis, qua ratione potes, christianis regibus, te Christo regi omnium, oves suas tam ab hostibus quam a perfidis pastoribus jamjam liberaturo, fidum ministrum exhibe.”
In the year 1406 the University of Oxford is said to have honored itself by giving a solemn testimonial to Wycliffe of their approbation of his labors, zeal, and learning, and to have sealed it with their common seal. Foxe publishes these letters, and believes them to be genuine. Harpsfield reminds him that letters of the same University condemned the errors of Wycliffe; and the inference is therefore drawn, that the letters in question were forged. The last biographer of Wycliffe is unable to decide if the evidence is sufficient to convince us, whether the letters of testimonial to Wycliffe were spurious or genuine. F477 “Considerable suspicion,” he says, “hangs over the authenticity of the document; and it has been affirmed that one Peter Payne stole the University seal, and wrote the letters.” It is not probable that the seal of the University could have been thus stolen; neither is it probable that the University could stultify itself by approbation of a writer, and by disapprobation of his writings. It is possible that, during the vacation, a majority of Wycliffe’s friends in the senate may have ordered the writing of the letters; and that this surreptitious use of the seal may have occasioned the subsequent order, that the seal of the university should be decreed to be appended to no document, but in full congregation of regents in full term, or in full convocation of regents and non-regents in the vacation; and that nothing should be done till after one day’s full deliberation. We cannot now decide whether the letters were forged or not; but the very fact, that Lewis and Le Bas discuss the doubt, proves to us that the “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe are not to be questioned, because he believed in and defended the authenticity of the documents in question.
Harpsfield resumes his attacks on Foxe by deriding the accounts of the dying words, the patience, the zeal, and heroism of the antipapal witnesses, who were burned for protesting against the errors of the church of Rome. He derides them; and a spurious liberality, affecting gentle- manliness, and despising as enthusiastic, or nonsensical, all those higher thoughts and feelings which are peculiar to the sincere and zealous believer in the truths and sanctions of Christianity, despises them also: both are the enemies of the loftier aspirations of the soul of man. Because the martyrs were not papists, this learned but wretched fellow does not or will not see, that their deaths were as glorious as their faith was pure, as their lives were holy, or as their motives were worthy of their christian convictions. I trust that the people of England will never be influenced by the earthborn, creeping learning, which resolves the higher aspirations of the soul after the truth for which it is willing to give the body to death, into the mere ravings of the fanaticism of the blinded or infuriated partizan. I trust that the church of England — the people of England — the protestants of England — (long may the antipapal epithet, in spite of our own brethren who would despise it, retain its honorable estimation among us) — I trust that the nation and the state of England will never forget the dying words of the martyrs, upon which such men as Harpsfield would throw contempt and scorn. “See,” said Baynham, whom Harpsfield mentions with indignation and ridicule, — “see,” said the dying witness, “ye look for miracles. Here is a miracle. I feel, in this fire, no more pain than if I were on a bed of down. It is to me as a bed of roses!” — “I will never pray for thee, thou art a heretic,” said the sheriff to Rogers at the stake. “But I will pray for thee,” was the meek answer; and while the flames were consuming him, he waved his hand in triumph. — “The blessed gospel is what I hold,” said Sanders, when they offered him a pardon if he would recant; “that do I believe; that have I taught; that will I never revoke.” And that blessed gospel, by God’s continued mercy, is still taught among us. — “Oh live, my friend!” said sir Anthony Kingston to bishop Hooper, when the queen had requested the knight to induce the bishop to recant; and when he, with many tears, therefore entreated his friend to live. “True it is,” said the bishop, “that death is bitter, and life is sweet; but the second death is more bitter, and the life to come is more sweet!” — “I have taught you nothing, my people,” said Taylor, on his way to the stake, “but God’s holy word, and the lessons I have taken from the Bible; and I am come hither this day to seal that truth with my blood!” And he kissed the stake when he came to it. “Merciful Father!” he prayed, “for Jesus Christ’s sake, receive my soul!” and the learned, the eloquent, and the facetious, and the pious man (the qualities by which I describe him are not incompatible with each other) dies as the antipapal witness, to the antipapal truth. — “I will give you the stewardship of my palace and forty pounds in money, if thou wilt recant,” said the bishop of London to poor Hunter. “I cannot turn from God!” was the victim’s answer, and he lifted up his hands to heaven, as his head sunk down in the flames — “Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit!” Is it bigotry, is it intolerance, is it a want of liberality, as even protestant divines are beginning to assert, to remember these fearful scenes, when the very power which taught the people that these scenes were necessary for the honor of Christ, and the benefit of the catholic church, still aspires to rule, and still refuses, up to this very hour, to change one doctrine, rescind one decree, or alter one law of its church — and, what is still worse, has strengthened and confirmed all the most objectionable errors since the martyrs suffered? If we did not know, that the God of Christianity has declared, that, under the influence of the Holy Spirit of love and of power, mankind shall be taught union among themselves and obedience to his will, we might despair of the destinies of the holy catholic church, and the happiness and peace of the world. But the time must come, when Rome shall change, as the heathens were changed, and as England has been changed. It shall become ashamed, not only of the scenes I am relating, but of the principles and the laws which occasioned them. Till that change of its laws is begun and completed, while others may affect to forget, we, who study the history of the past to learn instruction for the present and the future, must never forget the record of the testimony to the truth of our present antipapal form of Christianity, established among us. I, for one, will ever be so bigoted, if the word must be applied to me, as to remember how Farrar, the bishop of St. David’s, kept his word, in the flames, after he had told his friend, “that if he saw him stir from the pain of the burning, his doctrine might be disbelieved;” and he stood up in the fire, without shrinking, patient to the last. Some may call his language presumption. I deem it to be the faith of a martyr, conscious of Divine support. — “I would gladly accept my pardon,” said George Marsh, “if it did not tend to tear me away from God.” — “Be of good cheer, brother Ridley,” said old Latimer to his more accomplished and courtier-like brother-bishop, “and play the man!” And Ridley suffered with the same heroism and fortitude as the poorer and more ignoble victims, to prove to us, that the witnesses to the antipapal cause were to be alike derived from the gentlemen of the court, as from the loom, or the plough. — “The Bible,” said poor Bartlett Green, when he was reproached by his judge with opposing his opinion against those of the ancient fathers and prelates of the realm, “is of more authority than all fathers, all prelates, and all churches; it is the test by which all their opinions must be tried.” — And if the people of England, after their great deliverances in church and state, ever forget this truth, they will again deserve to see their holy priesthood changed into an unholy priestcraft; and to have the curse, and not the blessing, of the Inspirer of the holy Scriptures rest upon them. — “That unworthy right hand! That unworthy right hand!” said the still hated, still abused, still calumniated Cranmer; and the weakness of his recantation is still remembered by the papal writer, to the dishonor of the archbishop, when his dying prayer is ridiculed, though he spake it in common with the first martyr, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” — “Be of good cheer!” said the lame man to the blind man, when he threw away his crutch, and was fastened to the stake; “my lord of London is a good physician, he will cure thee of thy blindness and me of my lameness.” — “We believe in the holy catholic church,” said others; and when one of the bystanders told them that he rejoiced at this part of their faith, “We believe not in the papal catholic church,” was the answer, “but in the catholic church of Christ.” — If it be said that many of these persons died for their own general, undefined, and sometimes therefore erroneous views of the conclusions derivable from the word of God, — it is true, I answer! but the greater part, like Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Farrar, and others, died for the very church which still remains, by God’s great and undeserved mercy upon us, still established, in their blood, by our protestant laws, among us.
Many of them, like Hillier, or Hullier, who pressed the prayer-book to his heart, when it was scornfully thrown to him, thanked God in the flames for bestowing on the kingdom that precious gift. — I feel, however, that I need not proceed to relate their dying committings of their souls to God, their prayers for mercy, their ejaculations of praise, their hosannahs and their hallelujahs to the God of Christianity, who accepted the oblations of their martyred bodies, upon the altars of Smithfield, Oxford, and Colchester, and other towns, honored by their noble deaths, for the cause of the catholic church, and for the religion now established in England. — Harpsfield could not forget them. He lived among the eye-witnesses who beheld these things. He rejoiced with his brother, the chaplain of Bonner, to do God service, by putting the protestant members of the church of England to death; and he laughed in triumph over their agonies, and derided, when he could not deny, the mournful narratives of John Foxe. He despises them all; but he is more especially angry with the story of Baynham, and with the exclamation, that the fire that consumed him was as a bed of roses. These words, as well as all the other expressions which I have cited, appeared to Harpsfield — and they may appear to others also — to be only the result of enthusiasm, boasting, or mockery. “They boasted,” says Harpsfield, “that they felt no pains in the fire.” F480 If the expressions be literally interpreted, Harpsfield is right, and Foxe is wrong: but they are not to be so considered. They are to be regarded as the proofs of that heroic patience, that stubborn fortitude, with which the Creator has endued the human soul, for the best and wisest purposes. Such fortitude is at once the proof of the independence of the soul upon the organs of the body — the pledge that consciousness does not necessarily depend upon organization; and the demonstration, therefore, of the possible, the probable, and the certain immortality of man.
Much railing, also, is vented against Foxe, which requires no notice. He is abused, after much irrelevant matter, for admitting that the supreme power over the church,: might be in the hands of a layman. As this question must be decided by the meaning of the two words — “church,” and “head of the church,” it may not be advisable to discuss its details at present. Harps field is scandalized at an erroneous assertion of Foxe, that eight only of the Romanists died for their faith; whereas many more could be enumerated, whom Harpsfield mentions and eulogizes. Foxe would have said, that many whom his antagonist praises as martyrs, suffered rather as traitors and rebels. But into this sad and painful recrimination I shall not now enter. The differences in religious opinions are always identified with political controversies, when they are involved in the discussions of obedience or disobedience to the public law: and the only mode of preventing the fearful struggle between our duty to Caesar and our duty to God, is — that Caesar take care, in all matters of religion, to exact that only which God has empowered him to demand. Our fathers identified heresy with treason, and treason with heresy; because the rulers of the people imagined themselves to be unsusceptible of error in religious opinions, and of folly in political legislation. The rejection of their religious opinions, therefore, was made heresy; and because their political legislation was founded on their religious opinions, that rejection was denominated treason. The only great division among Christians is occasioned by the difficulty of so directing and forming the opinions of our rulers, that their laws should be consistent with the conclusions of reason, and with the discoveries of revelation. The former are discoverable only after long experience, and the latter are continually made more plain and more satisfactory by continued improvements in knowledge. Because such experience and such improvements imply imperfection on the part of rulers and of subjects, — therefore it is that the consciousness of such imperfection, rendering both rulers and people jealous over themselves, and anxious for progressive perfection, is the only source of mutual confidence, — the only banisher of all intolerance, — the only reconciler of the claims of the civil power, the authority of the ecclesiastical power, — the love of truth, which appeals to Scripture, and the love of freedom, which appeals to reason. All, all, these will be united when the several nations which constitute the states and churches of the one catholic church, and the one confederated civilized world, shall learn mutual selfdistrust from the long records of the past. Then, and then only, the mighty controversy will cease, which has so long convulsed the world by the collisions between power assuming infallibility, and subjection demanding the extension of greater privilege. Then, and then only, will the lesson with which John Foxe concludes the melancholy history of the persecutions which disgrace the reign of Mary, be learned by states and churches. Then, and then only, will the prayer with which his antagonist Harpsfield concludes his last chapter, be heard and answered. The conclusion of the Acts and Monuments of John Foxe is, — that when those who are in authority, acting upon the union of zeal and opinion, stir up persecution in christian churches, to the effusion of christian blood, they are in danger, while they think they only punish heretics, of stumbling at the same stone on which the Jews of old fell, to their own confusion and destruction. F481 The prayer with which Harpsfield concludes his attack on the martyrologist, is — that the dissensions among Christians may cease, arid that we may all live, and receive a blessing, in the unity of the catholic church. I interpret the words “‘catholic church in a different sense from that of Harpsfield. He would make the center of unity to be submission to papal Rome. I would make the center of unity to be the primitive episcopal communion, in which there might be friendship with, but no submission to, reformed and antipapal Rome. In this sense of the words “the catholic church,” I join in the prayer of Harpsfield, and desire to enforce the lesson inculcated on the world by John Foxe. The cessation of all persecution, and the cultivation of christian unity, in the communion of the holy catholic church, is, or ought to be, the twofold object of all christian controversialists. Papists and protestants, states and nations, churches and individual believers, are beginning over the whole civilized and christianized world to join in the prayer which we learn from the lessons which John Foxe has recorded — that the general detestation of persecution is the first and best foundation of all our hopes of union; and happy shall we be if we gather from the unanswered and unanswerable pages of John Foxe, the one holy conclusion, to which all the pages of the history of the past should lead us — that the sad record of the infliction and endurance of suffering should teach Rome to repent, and protestantism to distrust itself, and all churches to reconsider their foundations and their superstructure, till their mutual exasperations and angry jealousies be forgiven, and past persecutions terminate in the cessation of mutual hatred, and the establishment of christian love. The basis of such union must be catholic episcopacy, well-considered discipline, the reception of the holy Scriptures as the rule of the creeds of the churches, and the total annihilation of all laws which enforce and compel the adoption of a religious opinion, because it is the opinion of the civil or of the ecclesiastical rulers. I may seem to be speaking of a dream: but if the prayer of Christ be answered, (and heaven and earth shall pass away before his word shall fail,) the dream will become a reality; and the mode in which it may be accomplished may possibly be obscurely shadowed out.
The study of the history of the past may possibly be the guide to the safe anticipation of the future. So may it be! May God’s kingdom of peace and love come! may Christ’s will, as Christ expressed his will in his own solemn prayer, be done, in union among Christians upon earth, as we believe it is done in union among the angels of heaven!
Here, then, I end my review of the assailants on the “veracity and fidelity” of John Foxe. None of them, whether ancient or modern, have proved him to be an unfaithful or unfair historian. None have demonstrated that our ancestors acted unwisely in deeming the martyrologist to have been the most useful servant, which the university of Oxford ever yet produced, without any one exception, to warn the people against the consequences of the papal supremacy over the laws of England, and over the consciences and persons of the people. None have disproved his incalculable value in warming the hearts of his countrymen to meet the dangers which threatened them in the reign of Elizabeth; in animating them to meet with bold and unquailing resistance the sabbath-breaking, press-persecuting folly of Laud, — or in preserving the fire on the altar of God, and on the hearth of true liberty, when the last of the Stuarts dispensed with the protestant laws, and aimed at the restoration of the ascendancy of Rome.
None of his assailants have appreciated his real value, even at this moment, as the bequeather of a solemn warning to us, and to our children; never to permit the domination of the unchanged papal party, or the influential revival of the unchanged papal principles which our ancestors so justly condemned. That same unchanged power would now hope to succeed, by courtesy, flattery, and an assumed liberality; which once ruled by severity, terror, and fear. It still aspires to govern us. It must necessarily, therefore, still be watched. It must be ever guarded against, with jealousy, vigilance, and courage, whether it wage its open war upon us, or whether it creep silently, slowly, and invisibly into the paradise of our reformed church and free state, among the fogs and mists, of our liberal opinions, foolish divisions, or revived appeals to the spurious traditions which our fathers rightly undervalued, as unworthy of comparison with the holy light, “offspring of heaven first-born,” of the written and inspired revelation.
None of his assailants have convicted John Foxe of intentional mistakes, or of any error but such as might have been anticipated in volumes so numerous and extensive; and such as are common to every author and historian who has ever attempted to instruct the world. The result of every attack we have considered, has served to demonstrate some excellency in his invaluable pages. Whatever be the defects of the humble agent who has arranged the witnesses against him, and enabled the reader to examine their evidence, to compare it with the defense, and to decide on the merits or the demerits of the martyrologist; the labor will, I trust, be so far deemed to be successful, that no man from this time forward will dare to impugn the “veracity and fidelity” of Foxe, nor call him by the opprobrious epithets which designate the affirmer of deliberate and wilful falsehood. To produce this effect is the task which was undertaken, and I trust it has been effectually accomplished.
But are there no errors, no faults in the volumes of John Foxe? Is he to be ranked among our historical authorities, and enrolled among our standard authors? These questions naturally or unavoidably present themselves on the conclusion of this treatise. I will answer each question briefly, and so bid my reader farewell. Are there no faults in Foxe? Ay, truly are there; and many more than his most inveterate antagonists have mentioned. But he has done his best, and there is not one wilful misrepresentation of a fact. His faults are these: — too great carelessness in the printing of the titles of men and the names of places — too careless revision of the translations, which he tells us in his reply to Alan Cope, or Harpsfield, were frequently left to others, while he prepared fresh materials for new editions. The Greek epitaph of Foxe on Jewell, and the various Latin compositions which have given him a high rank among scholars, prove to us that the inaccuracies which may have been discovered in his translations must have proceeded from carelessness, and not from ignorance. Still that carelessness is indefensible. He has other faults. He is too credulous. He speaks of Hildegardis, for instance, as if she had been endued with the miraculous gift of prophecy. He expresses himself incautiously respecting many things which the church of England has sanctioned, and which, like the Lord’s prayer, were common to the early church, and to the church of Rome, such as church music. F485 He speaks too disparagingly of such eminent men as More and Fisher; though it must be’ remembered that both these men were guilty of the. common crime, the persecution which Foxe abhorred. He mentions the crucifying of children by the Jews, as if he believed the common fable; yet it is not impossible that some fanatical Jews may have sometimes given cause for the popular conviction. He is said to have received the account of martyrdoms without sufficient caution; yet these accounts were open to his contemporaries, who might have refuted them if they could have been refuted. It is difficult to vindicate him from the charge of puritanism. It is certain that if he could have effected a further reform in the church of England, he would have conducted it much too far from Rome. It is difficult to distinguish between his opinions, and those of the persons of whom he is speaking. This is a great defect. These are the chief popular objections; yet these are not insisted upon by the assailants whom I have noticed. I have heard these mentioned in conversation, and have seen them suggested in various notices of his merits or demerits. They are all great faults; yet they affect neither his “veracity, nor his fidelity,” and may be dismissed therefore without further notice.
Mr. Maitland speaks of the idea as absurd. Let us consider as our best answer to the question, neither his opinions, nor his motives, nor his objects, but the vast storehouse of materials he has collected, and the mass of undisputed facts which he has related, and which are not to be found in the volumes of any other book. We shall then, I think, come to the conclusion, that he still is, what our fathers esteemed him to be — one of the first, most valuable, and unsuperseded authorities in the English language. F486 John Foxe first made generally known to the public, the value of the historical manuscripts, which he consulted before they were printed. The first English edition of Foxe was printed in the early part of the reign of Elizabeth. He makes constant use of Matthew Paris, which was first printed in 1571; of William of Malmesbury, William Huntingdon, R.
Hoveden, Ethelward, and Ingulphus, which were first printed in 1696; and of Matthew of Westminster, which was printed in 1567. He quotes from manuscripts the epistle of Boniface or Winfrid; the letter of Charlemagne; the letters of Alcuin; the laws of Athelstan; the laws of Egelred; the oration of Edgar. F492 All these were printed for the first time, and were added to the public store of our literature. We cannot be surprised that all, every one of the antagonists who assailed him, excepting those who live in this more liberal age, venerated his researches and his learning, and always quote him on every point (but that to which their controversial discussions may have led them) with respect and deference as an undoubted authority. Foxe printed from the records in the Tower the charters of king William. F493 He confirms his statements from the registers of Hereford. F494 He analyses the manuscript account of the miracles of Becket. F495 He refers to the manuscript account of the pacification between pope Alexander and the emperor Frederic, and to letters printed from the Tower. F497 The French chronicle of Thomas Grey is cited (in the same page with the letter of king John to the pope from the Tower rolls); and one copy only of this manuscript now remains, in the library of Christ’s college in Cambridge. It was not printed till the year 1838. The eulogium of the monk of Canterbury, quoted by Foxe in the same page, is not yet printed. All these, as well as the extracts from the episcopal registers, might not have been printed to illustrate the truth of our common histories, to this very day, if John Foxe had not collected or transcribed them for the general use.
The history of the rise and progress of the Reformation is more fully and dearly illustrated by the labors of John Foxe, from the most unexceptionable contemporary authorities, than by any other writer on that ever-interesting subject. He has collected and printed numerous original documents from the registers of the bishop of London; from those of the bishop of Lincoln; from those of the archbishop of Canterbury, and, what are more valuable still, from the registers of the archbishop of St. Andrews. No one episcopal register of that period is to be found in all Scotland; so complete has been the devastation of such records in that part of the empire. When Foxe wrote, that devastation had not destroyed the registers. Foxe refers to them. “We express here,” he says, “the articles against Hamilton, as we received them from Scotland, out of the registers.” F503 Very curious are some of the documents which Foxe has thus collected. Among the most so, are the letter of thanks from Louvaine to Scotland, Hamilton’s treatise on Justifying Faith, Sir Ralph Sadler’s Oration to the king of Scotland on the Papal Supremacy, Articles against Borthwick and others. F506 Many other records of the same date are cited by Foxe alone, which are essential to every student of history, and which assist in making his work what our fathers esteemed it to be — the completest ecclesiastical-historical library we possess. among these may be enumerated the conferences between the cardinal and the almoner of queen Catharine; the oaths of Gardiner, Stokesley, Lee, Tunstal, etc. renouncing the papal supremacy. These are printed from the originals, and were probably taken from the proceedings of the convocation, which are now lost. F508 Foxe prints, too, many letters of Henry VIII. and Wolsey, which would have been otherwise lost. He has omitted many on account of the size of his book, which can now never be recovered.
This brings us down to his own times. Much of the history of that period was founded upon written contemporary authority. The story of the three men, King, Debenham, and Marsh, who were hanged for burning the rood at Dover Court, was taken from the letters of a living witness, who might therefore be referred to when Foxe’s book was published. F510 Tindal’s letters to Frith; Bonner’s letters to Cromwell; the characteristic conference between Brusierd and Bilney on image-worship; the highly important document from Bonner’s own handwriting against Gardiner, and the letters of Lambert, were all in the possession of Foxe, and all were printed from the originals. The story of Garret, of Barber, of Brown, were all printed from the affecting narratives of eye-witnesses. In the paper respecting priests’ marriages from Parker, he cites very many old charters from their originals; which demonstrate that the marriages of priests were allowed by the ancient laws of the kingdom. Foxe is no less to be considered still useful also to the reader of history, for the information he has given to us from original sources, of the foreign affairs of the kingdom. His information from Oecolampadius, and from Spain, appears to have been from manuscripts. He communicated also with Calais before it was lost to England; and collected from thence many interesting narratives. F519 In these memoranda I notice only those documents respecting which Foxe himself has given us any details; and as he generally quotes his documents without informing us of the particular sources from whence they are derived, they form but a very small portion of the invaluable and original matter, which is scattered through his laborious pages. Burnet, Strype, and all our best historians have derived their principal information and documents from John Foxe; and many hundred letters, all derived from authentic sources, and only now to be found there, illustrate the period of which he writes; and prove his work to be indispensable to every one who desires both genuine and accurate knowledge of the painful subjects of his history. Raw-head and bloodybone stories are supposed to be the subjects of his Acts and Monuments by the thoughtless and ignorant alone. Those who have studied his pages, will never dispense with his book.
As this statement may appear strange to many, in spite of all I have said, I will still confirm my opinion of the value of John Foxe, by referring to other original and most valuable documents, which are indispensable to the right understanding of the times in which he lived; and to the general illustration of English history. The record of the proceedings of the convocations in England, for instance, were destroyed in the fire of London, 1666. Foxe gives us extracts from them, of the utmost utility. F520 The speech of queen Mary, at Guildhall, was taken down by one who heard it, and given to Foxe. F521 The documents connected with the history of lady Jane Grey, are original. The curious oration of Bonner to the convocation, on the dignity of the priesthood, was reported to Foxe by a hearer. Ridley’s manuscript account of his discussion with Feckenham; the documents exhibited by Cranmer on his examination; the papers prepared by Ridley for his defense; Ridley’s own account of his treatment; were all committed to Foxe, and used by him in the compilation of his work. So also the account of Bonner’s actually striking, in his passion, a gentleman of rank, with other extravagances of anger, were testified to Foxe, by those who were present. The oration of cardinal Pole, the proceedings of the council, and the submission of England to the pope, on the absolution of the lords and commons on their knees before the cardinal, are most graphically related by Foxe; who gives us also the autograph letter of Philip to the pope, with the letter of the cardinal.
The sermon on the following Sunday at Paul’s Cross, by Gardiner, are also given from manuscript notes, “as they came to my hands,” says Foxe, “faithfully gathered.” Those who speak slightingly of the “veracity and fidelity” of John Foxe cannot have studied these things. They cannot have read his constant references to original documents, and his no less constant appeal to the contemporary testimonies, by which, or by whom, the truth of his narratives was confirmed. Accumulative proofs of his “veracity and faithfulness” of this nature, will not be valued by some. Others will demand still more proofs of his diligence, and anxiety to give relations of the events which took place in the reign of Mary; and on their account I will still continue my observations.
The accounts, then, of the examinations of some of the prisoners, drawn up by themselves, “left in writing, to remain for a perpetual testimony, in the cause of God’s truth, as here followeth, recorded and testified, by his own writing.” F530 The memoranda respecting bishop Hooper, who was “spare of his diet, sparer of words, and sparest of time,” are given to Foxe by those who knew him. The original of Ridley’s letter to Hooper, the originals of Hooper’s examinations, and of Hooper’s letters, f534 with the manuscript letters of Taylor, Phillpotts, Cranmer, and Careless, were all in Foxe’s possession. Other proceedings against the supposed heretics were copied from the registers. F539 The public records also are cited. F540 The letters of Farrar, of Bradford, of Ridley, f543 and of Latimer, were collected by Foxe. The examination of George Marsh, who read the English Litany every morning with his friends on his knees, the process against Bland, the final examinations of Ridley and Latimer, were all communicated to the martyrologist, who anxiously endeavored to collect original and authentic documents from all quarters. He proves his extreme candor, in his estimation of the value of these documents, by the manner in which he speaks of the account given of Cranmer by his friend Dr. Martin. “Such as that report is,” says Foxe, “I thought good to let the reader understand, that he may use therein his own judgment and consideration,” His frequent appeals to eyewitnesses of the things he relates, 549 the manner in which the declarations he received from the persecuted of their examinations and sufferings, are affirmed by him, not to be credited for their own words only, even though in one remarkable case the narrative of their sorrows was written with their own blood, and not with ink All these things prove to us that Foxe is worthy of our confidence, and that his “veracity and fidelity” cannot be assailed with either truth or honor. Disgrace has followed every attempt to destroy its value. If Foxe’s Acts and Monuments had not been written, — and this is the best criterion of his merits, — no book in the English language can be mentioned which would supply its place. Whoever will but impartially and candidly consider the mass of the materials collected, and remember that this work was the first attempt to give to the common reader a history of the church of Christ, as well as a narrative of the evil consequences of the one false principle, that the soul of the Christian is to be governed by authority that is fallible, on the supposition that such authority is infallible, unchangeable and divine, — must, I think, acknowledge, that the work of John Foxe is one of the most useful, most important, and most valuable books we still possess. It has never been superseded. Its loss could not have been supplied. He will also, I think, confess that our ancestors were justified in their admiration of the volumes of Foxe; and that we can name no other work, on the subjects treated upon by John Foxe, which so certainly deserved their favor, and which still continues to deserve the approbation of their sons. To appeal to the decisions of our fathers, — to speak to the present age of the “wisdom of our ancestors,” I well know to be, among many, the undoubted criterion of narrowness of intellect. The very expression — “ the wisdom of our ancestors,” is ranked by Jeremy Bentham, among the fallacies which prevent the free exercise of our judgment, in matters both of political or religious inquiry. I cannot say how this may be. I am too unlearned to fathom the wisdom of our ancestors; but I am sure that their folly in abhorring and disfavouring papistry, was much less than the folly of their sons; who, in spite of the experience of the past, are once more employed in reviving its power, in encouraging its usurpations, and pretensions; and in depreciating and deriding the value and estimation, the “veracity and fidelity,” of the martyrologist, John Foxe.
The testimonies that might be adduced, to the value, the faithfulness, and the laborious integrity of the martyrologist, would be burdensome to the reader from their number and extent. I shall merely select a few, from the pens of men who were competent to form an accurate judgment, and who would not lightly have affirmed more than they knew to be true. To commence with the highest ecclesiastical authorities of his own time, we must regard Archbishop Parker as the real author of that injunction which emanated from the convocation of 1571, over which he presided, — that “in the hails and dining-rooms of all bishops, and other dignitaries, there should be kept the great Bible, and the Book of Martyrs” of John Foxe.
Nor was it a slight mark of estimation, that when a code of ecclesiastical law was to be propounded (although Elizabeth’s indisposition to it prevented its final enactment), the duty of editing that work (the Reformatio Legum) was confided, most probably by the archbishop, to Foxe.
Of Grindall, Parker’s successor in the primacy, we need only observe, that, as has been already mentioned, he was one of Foxe’s chief assistants in the compilation of the martyrology.
Archbishop Whitgift, the next in succession in the see of Canterbury, styled him “that worthy man, who had so well deserved of this church of England;” and he tells Mr. Cartwright, that “he had read over his Acts and Monuments from one end to the other.” And, in another place, he thus speaks, “Mr. Foxe, who hath very diligently and faithfully labored in this matter (of archbishops and metropolitans) and searched out the truth of it, as learnedly as I know any man to have done.” F552 The great Camden thus writes of him: “Ex eruditorum numero obiit Joannes Foxus Oxoniensis, qui Ecclesiasticam Angliae Historiam, sire Martyrologium indefesso veritatis studio primum Latine, postea Anglice auctius magna cum laude contexuit.” F553 “We now come,” says Fuller, “to set down those particular martyrs that suffered in this queen’s reign (Mary). But this point hath been handled already so curiously and copiously by Mr. Foxe, that his industry herein hath starved the endeavors of such as shall succeed him, leaving nothing for their pens and pains to feed upon. For what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which hath been already done, saith Solomon. And Mr. Foxe, appearing sole emperor in this subject, all posterity may despair to add any remarkable discoveries which have escaped his observation. Wherefore, to handle this subject after him, what is it, but to light a candle to the sun? or rather (to borrow a metaphor from his book), to kindle one single stick to the burning of so many faggots.” F554 “I desire my Church History should behave itself to his (John Foxe’s) Book of Martyrs as a lieutenant to its captain, only to supply the place in his absence, to be supplemental thereunto, in such matters of moment which have escaped his observation.” F555 Bishop Burnet, who lived one hundred years after Foxe, says, “Having compared Foxe’s Acts and Monuments with the records, I have never been able to discover any errors or prevarications in them, but the utmost fidelity and exactness.” F556 Strype also bears witness to the accuracy of Foxe in transcribing, and contradicts the accusation of Parsons. “Foxe,” he says, “was an indefatigable searcher into old registers, and left them as he found them, after he had made his collections and transcriptions out of them, many whereof I have seen and do possess. And it was his interest that they should remain to be seen by posterity; therefore we frequently find references to them in the margins of his book. Many have diligently compared his books with registers, and council-books, and have always found him faithful.”
And again-”The credit of this book of Mr. Foxe is mightily undermined by the papists, and most professedly and earnestly by Parsons, in his book. I leave it to others to vindicate him; but yet he must not go without the commendation of a most painful searcher into records, archives, and repositories of original acts, and letters of state, and a great collector of MSS. And the world is infinitely beholden to him for abundance of extracts thence, communicated to us in his volumes. And as he hath been found most diligent, so most strictly true and faithful in his transcriptions. And this I myself in part have found.” And “several passages in his book have been compared with king Edward’s council-book, lately discovered, and found to agree well together.” F558 “Mr. John Foxe, the martyrologist,” says Oldmixon, “a grave, learned, and painful divine, and an exile for religion, employed his time abroad in writing the Acts and Monuments of that church, that would hardly receive him into her bosom, and in collecting materials relating to the martyrdom of those that suffered for religion in the reigns of Henry VIII. and queen Mary; all which he published, first in Latin, for the benefit of foreigners, and then in English, for the service of his own country and the church of England, in the year 1561. No book ever gave such a mortal wound to popery as this. It was dedicated to the queen, and was in such high reputation, that it was ordered to be set in the churches, where it raised in the people an invincible horror and detestation of that religion that shed so much innocent blood. The Oxonian (Ant.
Wood) is not contented with saying, He was a very bitter enemy in his writings to the Roman catholics, (vol. 1.p. 186,) but copies that profligate libeller, Parsons, the jesuit, in abusing him, as false, impertinent, and ignorant; and this learned and good man has met with many an ill word, from some ecclesiastical writers, purely on account of his aversion to certain ceremonies and habits.” F559 “When Foxe’s book was first published,” says Mr. Lewis, “he was thought to have done very exquisite service to the protestant cause, in showing, from abundance of ancient books, records, registers, and choice manuscripts, the encroachments of popes and papalins, and the stout oppositions that were made by learned and good men, in all ages and countries, against them; and especially under king Henry VIII. and queen Mary here in England, preserving to us the memories of those holy men and women, those bishops and divines, together with their histories, acts, sufferings, and their constant deaths, willingly undergone for the sake of Christ and his gospel, and for refusing to comply with popish doctrines and superstitions. It has been found, by those who have searched the records and registers that Foxe used, that he is always faithful.
Nay, this has been owned by Collier, who takes all opportunities to depreciate his character, and undervalue his work.” F560 Such was Foxe’s estimation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
And, although a fashion has sprung up, among men of Mr. Maitland’s school, of decrying Foxe as neither learned, nor accurate, nor even trustworthy, there is not wanting a goodly list even of moderns, to bear witness to his merits and value.
Dr. Wordsworth, the late master of Trinity College, Cambridge, may begin the honorable catalogue. “I am well aware,” he says, “that, by the extent to which I have availed myself of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, I fall within the sphere of such censures as that of Dr. John Milner, in which he speaks of ‘the frequent publications of John Foxe’s lying Book of Martyrs, with prints of men, women, and children, expiring in flames; the nonsense, inconsistency, and falsehoods of which (he says) he had in part exposed in his Letters to a Prebendary.’ I am not ignorant of what has been said, also, by Dr. J. Milner’s predecessors, in the same argument, by Harpsfield, Parsons, and others. But neither his writings nor theirs have proved, and it never will be proved, that John Foxe is not one of the most faithful and authentic of all historians. We know too much of the strength of Foxe’s book, and of the weakness of those of his adversaries, to be further moved by Dr. John Milner’s censures, than to charge them with falsehood. All the many researches and discoveries of later times, in regard to historical documents, have only contributed to place the general fidelity and truth of Foxe’s narrative on a rock which cannot be shaken. And surely we are indebted to the popish ecclesiastics of that day for having thus faithfully recorded the opinions for which they persecuted these ‘Brethren in Christ ;’ and let it be remembered, that it is from their own registers that Strype, Foxe, and other historians, have drawn the greater part of the particulars they relate. How great, then, is the effrontery of those writers who attempt to persuade us that the accounts given by Foxe are forgeries of his own devising!” f561 To Dr. Jenkyns, my brother prebendary at Durham, the editor of the works of Cranmer, I wrote on this same point, of the martyrologist’s fidelity and truth. He replied in these terms: “I had occasion, in editing Cranmer’s Remains, to compare several of the papers printed by Foxe with the original documents; and, on such comparison, I had good reason to be satisfied with the martyrologist’s fidelity and accuracy.”
Mr. Prebendary Soames, himself one of our best ecclesiastical historians, writes — “Of publications tending to wean Englishmen from Romish prejudices, no one probably had a more extensive operation than Foxe’s Martyrology. The first portion of this important work, which is principally an historical exposure of the papacy, was originally printed in Latin on the continent, whither the author had fled from the Marian persecution. Having arrived at home soon after Elizabeth’s accession, Foxe was encouraged, by various members of the hierarchy, to crown his former labors, by adding to them copious accounts of those who had perished as religious delinquents under the late queen. Every facility was afforded to him for the completion of this task in the most satisfactory manner; and he showed himself fully worthy of the confidence reposed in him. Invariable accuracy is not to be expected in any historical work of such extent; but it may be truly said of England’s venerable martyrologist, that his relations are more than ordinarily worthy of reliance. His principal object being, indeed, to leave behind him a vast mass of authentic information relating to those miserable times which it had been his lot to witness, he printed a vast mass of original letters, records of judicial processes, and other documentary evidence. The result of this judicious policy was a work which has highly gratified the friends of protestantism, and successfully defied its enemies. Numerous attacks have been levelled at the honest chronicles of Romish intolerance, but they have ever fallen harmless from the assailant’s hand.” F562 Professor Smythe adds his testimony: — “The real presence in the eucharist, was the great point on which the lives of men depended. The student should, by all means, turn to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs; let him look at the doctrines for the affirmation, or denial of which, men, and even women, were thrown into the flames; particularly, let him look at the disputation held before Henry VIII.; and again by Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, at Oxford; he will see, and if he is inexperienced in such subjects, he will see with astonishment, the preposterous manner in which logic and metaphysics were made the ceremonies that preceded the execution and agonies of those eminent martyrs. Let him consider again, what were the reasons for which Cranmer himself had before tied his victims to the stake. “I do not detail the points upon which the prelate disputed, or the reasons for which he put an unhappy woman, and an inoffensive foreigner to death. They are to be found the first in Foxe, the second in Burnet. I cannot detail to you particulars of this nature.”
F563 “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs should be looked at. It is indeed in itself a long and dreadful history of the intolerance of the human mind, and at the same time of the astonishing constancy of the human mind; that is, it is at once a monument of its lowest debasement and its highest elevation. “The volumes of Foxe are also every where descriptive of the manners and opinions of the different ages through which the author proceeds. “Foxe may always be consulted when the enormities of the papists are to be sought for.” F564 The late venerable and learned dean of Winchester, Dr. Rennell, thus encouraged Dr. Dibdin, when he proposed, a few years back, re — EDiting the Acts and Monuments: — “Deanery,-Feb.23, 1827. “My dear Sir, — I return you my best thanks for your kind communi- cation of your intention of giving a new edition of Foxe’s Martyrs. I think it impossible to conceive an undertaking of more importance to the best interests of the protestant cause; and that, in carrying this design into execution, you will have deserved well of your country. To vindicate Foxe’s veracity, as would be done in the course of your most laudable undertaking, would be to render an essential service to the church of England. I admire much the tone of your prospectus, which is timely and animated. My approbation of your design is unqualified, and be assured that every assistance within my humble powers and influence shall be exerted. I shall be proud to be among your subscribers, and think I can answer for our chapter also. “Yours, etc. “T. RENNELL .” F565 Dr. Southey, on the same occasion, wrote as follows: “Is your edition of the Acts and Monuments going forward? I have always intended to take advantage of its appearance for writing a life of John Foxe in the Quarterly Review, wherein I might render due honor to a man for whom I have a great veneration.”
Archdeacon Todd thus exhorted Dr. Dibdin: — “Do not make needless concessions in your prospectus; as loud as you can cry, I will (much older though I be,) shout louder for the historian, and exclaim, Foxe for ever!” “On his first visit to me in London, says Dr. D., on coming to take his turn of duty at the Chapel Royal, as one of the king’s chaplains, I perfectly remember his gallant effervescence of speech touching my Foxe. ‘When I read your prospectus (said he,) methought I rose from my table a foot higher.’” Last of all we may name the present archbishop of Canterbury, (then bishop of London,) who thus deliberately affixed the seal of his approbation: — “I am glad (said his grace to Dr. Dibdin,) that you have made up your mind to republish the great work of the Martyrs, and most willingly consent to your request of being allowed to dedicate the new edition to myself.”
Other testimonies, and very many, might be adduced, but I end the list as I began it, with the judgment of the ecclesiastical head of the Anglican church. I began it with the archbishop of Canterbury, who was contemporary with the martyrologist himself, and I end it with the archbishop who adorns that headship — and long may his peaceful virtues be continued to us! — in this our own day.