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sentiments, are mentioned in the registers of the metropolis, as having been put to death in different parts of the country, while an equal number saved themselves by recantation. In the following year, the convocation sat, and after some matters relating to the king's divorce had been debated, the lower house presented to the upper a catalogue of religious tenets which then prevailed in the realm, amounting to sixty-seven articles, and they are such as respected the Lollards, the new reformers, and the Anabaptists. The latter are most particularly pointed at;-the indispensable necessity of baptism, for attaining eternal life, is most peremptorily insisted on; that "infants must needs be christened, because they are born in original sin, which sin must needs be remitted, and which can only be done by the sacrament of baptism, whereby they receive the Holy Ghost, which exerciseth his grace and efficacy in them, and cleanseth and purgeth those from sin by his most secret virtue and operation. Item. That children or men once baptized, can, nor ought ever to be baptized again. Item. That they ought to repute and take all the Anabaptists' and every other man's opinions agreeable to the said Anabaptists, for detestable heresies, and utterly to be condemned." On the 16th November, 1538, a proclamation was issued, condemning all the books of the Anabaptists, and ordering those to be punished who vended them: and in the following month a circular letter was addressed to all the justices of peace throughout England, solemnly warning them to take care that all the injunctions, laws, and proclamations, against the Anabaptists and others, be duly executed. In the same year an act of grace was passed, from the provisions of which all Anabaptists were excepted*. If the country did not abound with Baptists at this time, why were those severe measures enforced against them?
We learn from Fuller's Church History, that "at the period when Henry VIII. was married to Anne of Cleves, the Dutch flocked into England in great numbers, and soon after began to broach their strange opinions, being branded with the general name of Anabaptists." He adds, that "these Anabaptists, in the main, are but Donatists new dipped. And this year their name first appears in our English Chronicles, where I read, that four Anabaptists, three men and one women, all Dutch, bare fagots at Paul's cross; and, three days after, a man and a woman of their sect were burnt in Smithfield +."
When the historian says that it was in the year 1538 that the names of these sectaries first appeared in an English Chronicle, there is considerable obscurity attached to his meaning. To suppose him to assert that the Anabaptists do not appear in the annals of England before that year, is to accuse him of contradicting his own writings, and violating the truth of history. Bishop Burnet says, that "in May, 1535, nineteen Hollanders
* Burnet's History of the Reformation, vol. 3. book 3.
+ Fuller's Church History, book 4. Stowe's Chronicle, p. 576.
were accused of holding heretical opinions, among which was a denial that the sacraments had any effect on those that received them fourteen of them remained obstinate, and were burnt by pairs in several places*." This denial of the efficacy of the sacraments evidently points to the Baptists, who strenuously opposed the administration of that ordinance to infants, on the ground of its saving efficacy. In the same year, as has been already stated, the registers of London mention certain Dutch Baptists, ten of whom were put to death; and in the articles of religion set forth by the king and convocation, A.D. 1536, the sect of the Anabaptists is specified and condemned. In fact, it is easy to trace the Baptists in England at least a hundred years prior to the time mentioned by Fuller. His words must therefore be restricted to the punishments first inflicted in England upon the Mennonites, or Dutch Baptists, who had emigrated to this country.
In the year 1539, the thirtieth of the reign of Henry VIII. we find certain legal enactments promulgated, one of which was, "that those who are in any error, as Sacramentaries, Anabaptists, or any others, that sell books having such opinions in them, being once known, both the books and such persons shall be detected, and disclosed immediately to the king's majesty, or one of his privy-council, to the intent to have it punished without favour, even with the extremity of the law +." From this it appears, that the Baptists not only existed in England, but that they were in the habit of availing themselves of the art of printing, which had not long been discovered, for the defence of their peculiar and discriminating tenets; and to such an extent, too, as to alarm the clergy, and induce them to call upon the legislature for measures of severity, in order to restrain their circulation.
In the same year, it appears from the Dutch Martyrology that sixteen men and fifteen women were banished the country for opposing infant baptism. They retired to Delft, in Holland, where they were pursued and prosecuted before the magistrates as Anabaptists, and put to death for their supposed errors, the men being beheaded and the women drowned. Such were the sanguinary proceedings against the Baptists, in the reign of Henry VIII., a monarch who professedly espoused the cause of reformation.
Edward VI. ascended the throne in 1547; and, though only nine years of age, he was evidently a great blessing to the country. He encouraged the reading of the Scriptures in his own language, received home again such as had been banished during the former reign, and restrained persecution in all its direful forms to the utmost of his power. Fox tells us that "during the whole time of the six years' reign of this young prince, much tranquillity, and as it were a breathing time, was granted to the whole church of England; so that, the rage of persecution ceasing, and the
History of the Reformation, vol. 1. book 3. p. 195. + Fox's Martyrs, vol. 2. p. 440.
sword taken out of the adversaries' hand, there was now no danger to the godly, unless it were only by wealth and prosperity, which many times bringeth more damage in corrupting men's minds than any time of persecution or affliction. In short, during all this time, neither in Smithfield nor in any other quarter of this realm, was any heard to suffer for any matter of religion, either Papist or Protestant, two only excepted; one an English woman, called Joan of Kent; and the other a Dutchman, named Goorge*."
Bishop Burnet informs us that at this time there were many Anabaptists in several parts of England. These persons laid it down as a foundation principle, that the Scripture was to be the only rule of Christians. They denied that the baptism of infants could be fairly deduced from Scripture: "they held that to be no baptism, and so were rebaptized." On the 12th of April, 1549, there was a complaint brought to the council, that with the strangers that were lately come into England, some of that persuasion had come over, who were disseminating their errors, and making proselytes. A commission was accordingly ordered for the archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of Ely, Worcester, Westminster, Lincoln, and Rochester, &c. &c. to examine and search after all Anabaptists, heretics, or contemners of the Common Prayer -to endeavour to reclaim them, or, if obstinate, to excommunicate and imprison them, and deliver them over to the secular power, to be farther proceeded against. Some tradesmen in London were brought before the commissioners, and were persuaded to abjure their former opinions, one of which was, "that the baptism of infants was not profitable."
One of those who thus abjured was commanded to carry a fagot on the following Sunday at St. Paul's, where a sermon was to be preached setting forth his heresy. But Joan Boucher, commonly called Joan of Kent, was extremely obstinate. "The excuse for thirsting after this woman's blood (says one of our older historians) which Cranmer and the other bishops evinced was, that she was an Anabaptist, and that the Anabaptists in Germany had turned all religion into allegories, and denied the principles of the Christian faith-that they had also broke out into rebellion, and driven the bishops out of Munster, where they set up John of Leyden, one of their teachers, for king, and called the city New Jerusalem. But Joan Boucher was not charged with rebellion, nor yet with a breach of peace. And bishop Burnet himself acknowledges, that there were Anabaptists of gentle and moderate principles and manners, whose only crime was, that they thought baptism ought not to be given to infants, but to grown persons alone. If the bishops did not distinguish this moderate sort of Baptists from the madmen of Munster, there is reason to judge the death of Joan Boucher to be no better than
* Acts and Monuments, p. 685.
murder. She was indeed charged with maintaining, besides adult baptism," that Christ was not truly incarnate of the Virgin, whose flesh being sinful, he could not partake of it, but the word, by the consent of the inward man in the Virgin, took flesh of her "-a scholastic distinction, incapable of doing much mischief, and far from deserving so severe a punishment. "The principles of orthodoxy surely ought not to destroy the principles of humanity! It is not in a man's power to believe all that another may tell him; but is he therefore to be burned for not effecting an impossibility? Had the apostles promulgated any such doctrine among either Jews or Gentiles, when Christ sent them to preach the gospel to all nations, and baptize those that believed, not even the power of miracles would have been sufficient to establish a religion thus founded on cruelty and injustice*."
The bishops named in the commission for searching after the Baptists were Cranmer, Ridley, Goodrich, Heath, Scory, and Holbeach, two of whom were, in the following reign, themselves burnt for heresy. When this poor woman had been convicted, and condemned as an obstinate heretic, she was given over to the secular power, and Cranmer was employed to persuade the king to sign the warrant for her execution. But the young monarch was so struck with the cruelty and unreasonableness of the sentence passed upon her, that when he was requested to sign the warrant for her execution, he could not, for some time, be prevailed on to do it. Cranmer argued from the law of Moses, according to which blasphemers were to be stoned: he said, he made a great difference between other points of divinity and those which were levelled against the Apostles' creed-that there were impieties against God, which a prince, being his deputy, ought to punish, just as the king's deputies were obliged to punish offences against the king's person! These, certainly, were very futile pleas, and bishop Burnet says, they rather silenced than satisfied the young king; who still thought it a hard thing, as in truth it was, to proceed so severely in such cases. Accordingly, he set his hand to the warrant with tears in his eyes, telling Cranmer, that if he did wrong, as it was done in submission to his authority, he (the archbishop) should answer for it to God! This struck the prelate with much horror, so that he was very unwilling to have the sentence carried into effect. Every effort was now made to induce the woman to recant: both Cranmer and Ridley took her in custody to their own houses, to try if they could prevail upon her to do so; but, remaining inflexible, she was executed May 2, 1550, bishop Scory preaching at her burning t.
It would seem, at first sight, a little remarkable, that so much pains should have been taken with Joan Boucher to make her retract her opinions: but our surprise will cease when we attend
• Oldmixon's History of England, vol. p. 187.
to the account which Strype gives of her in his Annals of the Reformation:" She was (says he) a great disperser of Tyndal's New Testament, translated by him into English, and printed at Cologne; and was moreover a great reader of Scriptures herself. Which book also she dispersed in the court, and so became known to certain women of quality, and was particularly acquainted with Mrs. Anne Askew. She used, for greater secrecy, to tie the books with strings under her apparel, and so pass with them into court." From this it would appear that she was a person of no ordinary rank in life, but one whose sentiments on religious subjects were entitled to respect; and that, having tasted of the good word of God herself, and knowing its ineffable value to the souls of her fellow-creatures, she was not afraid of hazarding her own personal safety, in those perilous times, to put others in possession of the oracles of eternal truth.
There is a remarkable circumstance connected with the burning of this illustrious female, related by Fox, which is worth inserting. in these pages. I extract it from Crosby's History, vol. 1. p. 59, who tells us, that he has taken it from Peirce's Answer to Nichols. "When the Protestant bishops (says Fox) had resolved to put [this woman] to death, a friend of Mr. John Rogers+, the divinityreader in St. Paul's church, came to him, earnestly entreating him to use his interest with the archbishop, that the poor woman's life might be spared, and other means used to prevent the spreading of her opinions, which might be done in time; urging, too, that though while she lived she infected few with her opinions, yet she might bring many to think well of them, by suffering for them. He therefore pleaded, that it was much better she should be kept in some prison, where she had no opportunity of propagating her notions among weak people, and thus she would be precluded from injuring others, while she might live to change her own mind. Rogers, on the other hand, pleaded, that she ought to be put to death. Well then, said his friend, if you are resolved to put an end to both her life and her opinions, choose some other kind of death, more consonant to the gentleness and mercy prescribed in the gospel, there being no need that such tormenting deaths should be resorted to in imitation of the Papists. Rogers answered, that burning alive was not a cruel death, but easy enough! On hearing these words, which expressed so little regard to the poor creature's sufferings, his friend replied with great vehemence, at the same time striking Rogers' hand, which before he had held fast, "Well, perhaps it may so happen, that you yourselves will one day have your hands full of this mild burning!" And so it came to pass, for Rogers was the first man who was burnt in queen Mary's reign! The pious bishop Latimer lived during the reign of Edward VI., and has borne a very honourable testimony to the Baptists of
Eccles. Mem. vol. 2. p. 214.
+ Supposed by Mr. Peirce to be Fox himself!