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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

1555 the burning of John Rogers


thereunto, where they had liberty

sometimes to walk." They had also the liberty of meeting for worship, as had the prisoners in the Marshalsea. Their sympathisers who had escaped the search kept them supplied with food, as did the early Christians their suffering brethren in the first centuries. But in some of the other prisons the confessors were not only confined in loathsome cells, but suffered terribly from lack of food. At the end of Strype's catalogue of the two hundred and eighty-eight persons who were burnt during the reign of Mary, he significantly adds, "besides those that dyed of famyne in sondry prisons."[507] Some of the imprisoned were able to draw up (May 8th, 1554) and send out for circulation a confession of their faith, meant to show that they were suffering simply for holding and proclaiming what they believed to be scriptural truth. They declared that they believed all the canonical books of Scripture to be God's very Word, and that it was to be the judge in all controversies of faith; that the Catholic Church was the Church which believed and followed the doctrines taught in Scripture; that they accepted the Apostles' Creed and the decisions of the first four Oecumenical Councils and of the Council of Toledo, as well as the teachings of Athanasius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Damasus; that they believed that justification came through the mercy of God, and that it was received by none but by faith only, and that faith was not an opinion, but a persuasion wrought by the Holy Ghost; they declared
that the external service of God ought to be according to God's Word, and conducted in a language which the people could understand; they confessed that God only by Jesus Christ is to be prayed to, and therefore disapproved of the invocation of the saints; they disowned Purgatory and Masses for the dead; they held that Baptism and the Lord's Supper were the Sacraments instituted by Christ, were to be administered according to the institution of Christ, and disallowed the mutilation of the sacrament, the theory of transubstantiation, and the adoration of the bread.[508] This was signed by Ferrar, Hooper, Coverdale (Bishops), by Rogers (the first martyr), by Bradford, Philpot, Crome, Saunders, and others. John Bradford, the single-minded, gentle scholar, was probably the author of the Confession.

Cardinal Pole, in his capacity as papal Legate, issued a commission (Jan. 28th, 1555) to Bishop Gardiner and several others to try the prisoners detained for heresy. Then followed (Feb. 4th, 1555) the burning of John Rogers, to whom Tyndale had entrusted his translation of the Scriptures, and who was the real compiler of the Bible known as Matthews'. The scenes at his execution might have warned the authorities that persecution was not going to be persuasive. Crowds cheered him as he passed to his death, "as if he were going to his wedding," the French Ambassador reported. His fate excited a strong feeling of sympathy among almost all classes in society, which was ominous. Even Simon Renard, the trusted envoy of Charles V., took the liberty of warning Philip that less extreme measures ought to be used. But the worst of a persecuting policy is that when it has once begun it is almost impossible to give it up without confession of defeat. Bishop Hooper was sent to Gloucester to suffer in his cathedral town, Saunders to Coventry, and Dr. Taylor was burnt on Aldham Common in Suffolk. Several other martyrs suffered the same fate of burning a few days afterwards.


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