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  • MASTER JOHN BRADFORD’S EXAMINATION
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    BEFORE THE LORD CHANCELLOR BISHOP OF WINCHESTER, THE BISHOP OF LONDON, AND OTHERS IN COMMISSION, THE 22ND OF JANUARY, FC19 ANNO DOMINI 1555.

    After the lord chancellor, and the residue of the queen’s council in commission with him, had ended their talk with master Ferrar, late bishop of St. David’s, the under-marshal of the King’s Bench was commanded to bring in master Bradford; who, being come into the presence of the council sitting at a table, he kneeling down on his knee, but immediately by my lord chancellor was bidden to stand up; and so he did.

    When he was risen, the lord chancellor earnestly looked upon him, to have, belike, over-faced him: but he gave no place; that is, he ceased not in like manner to look on the lord chancellor still and continually, save that once he cast his eyes to heaven-ward, sighing for God’s help, and so outfaced him, as they say.

    Then the lord chancellor, as it were amazed and something troubled, spake thus to him in effect: “Thou hast been a long time imprisoned justly for thy behavior at Paul’s Cross, the 13th of August, anno 1553, for thy false preaching and arrogance, taking upon thee to preach without authority. But now,” quoth he, “the time of mercy is come: and therefore the queen’s highness, minding to offer unto you mercy, hath by us sent for you, to declare and give the same, if so be ye will with us return: and,” quoth he, “if you will do as we have done, you shall find as we have found, I warrant you.” These were the sum, and even in manner the words which he spake.

    To these words master Bradford spake (after reverent obeisance made) in this manner: “My lord and lords all, I confess that I have been long prisoned, and (with humble reverence be it spoken) unjustly; for that I did nothing seditiously, falsely, or arrogantly, in word or fact, by preaching or otherwise; but rather sought peace and all godly quietness, as an obedient and faithful subject, both in going about to save the bishop of Bath that now is, then master Bourn, the preacher at the Cross, and in preaching for quietness accordingly.”

    At these words, or rather before he had fully finished them, the lord chancellor something snuffed, and spake with an admiration, that “there was a loud lie; for,” quoth he, “the fact was seditious, as you my lord of London can bear witness.” “You say true, my lord,” quoth the bishop of London, “I saw him with mine own eyes, when he took upon him to rule and lead the people malapertly; thereby declaring that he was the author of the sedition.”

    Here John Bradford replied, and said that, “notwithstanding my lord bishop’s seeing and saying, that he had told was the truth: as one day,” quoth he, “my Lord God almighty shall reveal to all the world, when we all shall come and appear before him. In the mean season, because I cannot be believed of you, I must and am ready to suffer, as now your sayings, so whatsoever God shall license you to do unto me.” “I know,” quoth my lord chancellor then, “thou hast a glorious tongue, and goodly shews thou makest; but all is lies thou speakest. And again, I have not forgotten how stubborn thou wert when thou wert before us in the Tower, whither thou wast committed to prison concerning religion: I have not forgotten thy behavior and talk, wherethrough worthily thou hast been kept in prison, as one that would have done more hurt than I will speak of.” “My lord,” quoth Bradford, “as I said I say again, that I stand, as before you, so before God; and one day we shall all stand before him: the truth then will be the truth, though you will not now so take it. Yea, my lord,” quoth he, “I dare say that my lord of Bath, master Bourn, will witness with me that I sought his safeguard with the peril of mine own life; I thank God therefor.” “That is not true,” quoth the bishop of London; “for I myself did see thee take upon thee too much.” “No,” quoth Bradford, “I took nothing upon me undesired, and that of master Bourn himself, as, if he were here present, I dare say he would affirm it; for he desired me both to help him to pacify the people, and not to leave him till he was in safety. And as for my behavior in the Tower, and talk before your honors, if I did or said anything that did not beseem me, if wherein your lordships would tell me, I should and would shortly make you answer.” “Well,” quoth my lord chancellor, “to leave this matter; how sayest thou now? Wilt thou return again, and do as we have done? and thou shalt receive the queen’s mercy and pardon.” “My lord,” quoth Bradford, “I desire mercy with God’s mercy; but mercy with God’s wrath, God keep me from! although (I thank God therefor) my conscience doth not accuse me that I did or spake anything wherefore I should need to receive the queen’s mercy or pardon, but rather reward and praise. For all that ever I did or spake was both agreeing to God’s laws, and the laws of the realm at that present, and did make much to quietness.” “Well,” quoth my lord chancellor, “if thou make this babbling rolling in thy eloquent tongue, being altogether ignorant and vain-glorious, and will not receive mercy offered to thee, know for truth that the queen is minded to make a purgation of all such as thou art.” “The Lord,” quoth Bradford, “tofore whom I stand as well as before you, knoweth what vain-glory I have sought and seek in this behalf: his mercy I desire, and also would be glad of the queen’s favor, to live as a subject without clog of conscience: but otherwise the Lord’s mercy is to me better than life. And I know,” quoth he, “to whom I have committed my life, even to his hands which will keep it, so that no man may take it away before it be his pleasure. There are twelve hours in the day; and as long as they last, so long shall no man have power thereon: therefore his good will be done.

    Life in his displeasure is worse than death; and death in his true favor is true life.” “I knew well enough,” quoth my lord chancellor, “that we should have glorious talk enough of thee: be sure therefore that, as thou hast deceived the people with false and devilish doctrine, so shalt thou receive.” “I have not deceived,” quod Bradford, “the people, nor taught any other doctrine than by God’s grace I am, and hope shall be, ready to confirm with my life. And as for devilishness and falseness in the doctrine, I would be sorry you could so prove it.” “Why,” quoth the bishop of Duresme, “tell me what you say by the ministration of the communion as you now know it is?” “My lord,” saith Bradford, “here must I desire of your lordship and of all your honors a question, tofore I do make answer to any interrogatory or question wherewith you now begin. I have been six times sworn, that I should in no case consent to the practicing of any jurisdiction, or any authority, on the bishop of Rome’s behalf within this realm of England.

    Now therefore, before God, I humbly pray your honors to tell me, whether you ask me this question by his authority, or not? If you do, I dare not, nor may not answer you anything in his authority you shall demand of me, except I would be forsworn; which God forbid.” “Hast thou been sworn six times?” quoth master secretary Bourn: “what offices hast thou borne?” “Here is another lie,” quoth my lord chancellor. “Forsooth,” quoth Bradford, “I was thrice sworn in Cambridge; when I was admitted master of art, when I was elected fellow in Pembroke hall, and when I was there the visitors came thither and sware the university. Again I was sworn when I entered into the ministry, when I had a prebend given me, and when I was sworn to serve the king a little before his death.” “Tush,” quoth my lord chancellor, “Herod’s oaths a man should make no conscience at.” “But,” quoth Bradford, “my lord, these oaths were no Herod’s oaths, nor no unlawful oaths, but oaths according to God’s word; as you yourself have well affirmed in your book, De vera obedientia. ” “My lords,” quoth another of the council that stood by the table (master Rochester, I ween), “I never knew wherefore this man was in prison before now; but I see well that it had not been good that this man had been abroad. Whatsoever was the cause he was laid in prison, I know not; but I now see well that not without cause he was and is to be kept in prison.” “Yea,” quoth secretary Bourn, “it was reported this parliament time by the earl of Derby, that he hath done more hurt by letters, and exhorting those that have come to him in religion, than ever he did when he was abroad by preaching. In his letters he curseth all that teacheth false doctrine (for so he calleth that which is not according to that he taught), and most heartily exhorteth them to whom he writeth to continue still in that they have received by him, and such like as he is.” All which words divers others of the council affirmed. Whereunto the said master Bourn added, saying, “How say you, sirrah?” speaking to Bradford, “have you not thus seditiously written and exhorted the people?” “I have not,” quoth Bradford, “written, nor spoken any thing seditiously; and (I thank God therefor) I have not admitted any seditious cogitation, nor I trust never shall do.” “Yea, but thou hast written letters,” quoth master secretary Bourn. “Why speakest thou not?” quoth my lord chancellor: “hast thou not written as he saith?” “That,” quoth Bradford, “I have written, I have written.” “Lord God,” quoth master Southwell, “what an arrogant and stubborn boy is this, that thus stoutly and dallyingly behaveth himself before the queen’s council!” Whereat one looked upon another with disdainful countenance. “My lords and masters,” quoth Bradford, “the Lord God which is, and will judge us all, knoweth that as I am certain I stand now before his Majesty, so with reverence in his sight I stand before you: and unto you accordingly in words and gesture I desire to behave myself. If you otherwise take it, I doubt not but God in his time will reveal it. In the mean season I shall suffer with all due obedience your sayings and deeds too, I hope.” “These be gay glorious words,” quoth my lord chancellor, “of reverence; but, as in all other things, so herein thou dost nothing but lie.” “Well,” quoth Bradford, “I would God, the Author of truth, and abhorrer of lies, would pull my tongue out of my head before you all, and shew a terrible judgment on me here presently, if I have purposed or do purpose to lie before you, whatsoever you shall ask me.” “Why then,” quoth my lord chancellor, “dost thou not answer? Hast thou written such letters as here is objected against thee?” “As I said, my lord,” quod Bradford, “that I have written, I have written. I stand now before you, which either can lay my letters to my charge or not.

    If you lay any thing to my charge that I have written, if I deny it, I am then a liar.” “We shall never have done with thee, I perceive now,” saith my lord chancellor. “Be short, be short: wilt thou have mercy?” “I pray God,” quoth Bradford, “give me his mercy; and if therewith you will extend yours, I will not refuse it; but otherwise I will not.”

    Here was now much ado, one speaking this, and other speaking that, of his arrogancy in refusing the queen’s pardon, which she so lovingly did offer unto him: whereto Bradford answered thus: “My lords, if I may live as a quiet subject without clog of conscience, I shall heartily thank you for your pardon: if otherwise I behave myself, then I am in danger of the law. In the mean season I ask no more but the benefit of a subject, till I be convinced of transgression. If I cannot have this, as hitherto I have not had, God’s good will be done.”

    Upon these words, my lord chancellor began a long process of the false doctrine wherewith people were deceived in the days of king Edward; and so turned the end of his talk to Bradford, saying, “How sayest thou?” “My lord,” quoth Bradford, “the doctrine taught in king Edward’s days was God’s pure religion, the which as I then believed, so do I now more believe than ever I did: and therein I am more confirmed, and ready to declare it, by God’s grace even as he will, to the world, than I was when I first came into prison.” “What religion mean you,” quoth the bishop of Duresme, “in king Edward’s days? What year of his reign?” “Forsooth,” quoth Bradford, “even that same year of his reign, my lord, that the king died, and I was a preacher.”

    Here wrote master secretary Bourn I wot not what.

    Now after a little pausing, my lord chancellor beginneth again to declare that the doctrine taught in king Edward’s days was heresy, using for probation and demonstration thereof no scripture nor reason but this, that it ended with treason and rebellion: “so that,” quoth he, “the very end were enough to improve that doctrine to be naught.” “Ah, my lord!” quoth Bradford, “that you would enter into God’s sanctuary, and mark the end of this present doctrine you now so magnify!” “What meanest thou by that?” quoth he: “I ween we shall have a snatch of rebellion even now.” “No,” quoth Bradford, “my lord, I mean no such end as you would gather:

    I mean an end which none seeth but they that enter into God’s sanctuary. If a man look but on present things, he will soon deceive himself.”

    Here now did my lord chancellor offer again mercy; and Bradford answered, as before, “Mercy with God’s mercy should be welcome; but otherwise he would none.” Whereupon the said lord chancellor did ring a little bell, belike to call in somebody; for there was present none in manner but only those before named, and the bishop of Worcester. Now when one was come in, “It is best,” quoth master secretary Bourn, “that you give the keeper a charge of this follow.” So was the under-marshal called in. “You shall take this man to you,” quoth my lord chancellor, “and keep him close without conference with any man but by your knowledge; and suffer him not to write any letters, etc.; for he is of another manner of charge unto you now than he was before.”

    And so, after humble obeisance to the council, [I] went with my keeper; and, as God knoweth, with as merry a heart and so quiet a conscience and ever I had in all my life; rejoicing that it had pleased the goodness of God, through his mercy, to call me, most wretched sinner, to such an office as to be a witness-bearer of his truth.

    This is the sum of my first examination. God of his mercy deliver his people from evil. Amen.

    By me,JOHN BRADFORD. (And so they departed, the said Bradford looking as cheerfully as any man could do, declaring thereby even a desire to give his life for confirmation of that he hath taught and written: and surely, if he do so, his death will destroy more of the Philistines, as Sampson did, than ever he did in his life.

    God Almighty keep him, and all his fellows bound for the Lord’s sake.

    Amen. THE EFFECT OF THE

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