The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/A fruitful Letter sent to the Nobles and Burgesses of the Parliament, by Master William Swinderby

A fruitful Letter sent to the Nobles and Burgesses of the Parliament, by Master William Swinderby.

Iesu, that art both God and man, helpe thy people that louen thy law, and make knowen through thy grace thy teaching to all christen men! Deare sirs, so as we seen, by manie tokens, that this world drawes to an end, and all that euer haue bene forth-brought of Adam's kind into this world, shulen come togeder at domesday, rich and poore, ichone to geue accompt and receiue after his deeds ioy or paynen for euermore: therefore make we our werks good, ye while that God of mercy abides, and be ye stable and true to God, and ye shulen see his helpe about you. "Constantes estote et videbitis auxilium Domini super vos." This land is full of ghostly cowards, in ghostly battaile fewe dare stand. But Christ, the comforter of all that falleth (to that his heart brast for our loue), against that fiend, the doughtie duke comforteth vs thus: "Estote fortes in bello," &c. "Be ye strong in battaile," he sales, "and fight ye with the old adder." "State in fide, viriliter agite," &c. "Wake ye and pray yee, stond ye in beleeue, do ye manly and be ye comfortet, and let all your things be done with charitie:" For Saint Paul bids thus in his Epistle, that saw the priuities of God in heauen: "Euigilate iusti," &c. "Awake ye that been righteous men, be ye stable and vnmoueable: Awake ye quickly and sleepe nought, and stond now strongly for God's law." For Saint Iohn in the Apocalips sayes: "Blessed be he that awakes: for nought to sleepers but to wakers God has behite the crown of life." "For the houre is now," as Paul saith to vs, "from sleepe for to arise, for hee that earlie awakes to me, he shall finde me, saith Christ himseluen." This waking ghostly, is good liuing out of sinne: this sleep betokens that which cowardeth a man's heart from ghostly comfort, and to stand in the same, thorough a deceaueable sleepe is this that lets a man of the blisse of heauen. The fiend makes men bold in sinne and ferd to doe worship to God. Death is a likening to a theefe that priuily steales vpon a man tliat now is riche, and full of wele; anon hee makes him a needie wreche. Therefore, said God, by Saint lohn, in the Apocalips, in this wise: "Be thou waking, for if thou wake nought, I shall come to thee as a theefe, and thou shalt not wit what houre." "And if the husbandman" saies Christ, "wist what houre the theefe shoulde come, hee woulde wake and suffer him not to vndermine his house." Saint Peter therefore warneth and saith, "Wake and be yee ware, suffer yee no man," he sayes, "as a theefe, but willinglie for Gods lone;" "for it is time," as Peter sales, "that dome begin from the house of God." "Ye bene the body of Christ," sayes Poule, "that needs must suffer with the head, or els your bodies bene but dead and departed from Christ that is the head." "And therefore curset be he," saies Poule, "that loues not Iesu Christ." And who it is that loues him, Christ himselfe telles in the gospel, " Hee that has my bests, and keeps them, he it is that loues me." "Cursed he be therefore," says Poule, "that doth Christe's workes deceiueably." "Be ye not therefore, says Poule, "ashamed of the true witnesse of lesu Christ;" for Christ our God sayes in his gospel, "Hee that shames me and my wordes, him shall mans sonne ashame when he shall come for to set in the siege of his Maiestie. And each man," he sayes, "that knowes me and my wordes before men, in this sinefull generation and whorish, mans sonne shall knowledge him before my father," sayes Christ himself, "when he shal come with hys aungels in the glorie of his father." Sithe ye therefore bene Christen men, that is to say, Christes men, shew in deede that ye bene such as ye daren shew you the kings men; "for hit had bene," as Peter sayes, "better not to haue knowen the way of trueth, then after the knowing thereof to bee conuerted backward there from." We knowen Christ, that is trought, we sayn all through our beliefe, if we turne from him for drede, truely we denie the troth. And therefore sith our time is short, (how short no man knowes but God,) do we the good that wee may to Gods worship, "when we haue time." "Be true" (saies God) "to the death, and you shall haue the crowne of life." And thinke on ludas Machabeus, that was God's true knight, that comforted hartely Gods true people, to be the followers of his law." And geue ye," hee said, "your liues for the Testament of your fathers. And ye shullen winne," he said, "great ioy, and a name for euermore." "Was not Abraham," hee said, "in temptation founden true, and was [1]arectet vnto him euermore to righteousnesse; Ioseph in time of his anguish hee kept truely Gods hest, hee was made, by Gods prouidence, lord of Egypt, for his trouth. Phinees our fadure louing," hee saith, "the zeale of God, tooke the testament of euerlasting priesthoode. losue for hee fulfillet the worde of God was domes man in Israel. Caleph that witnessed in the church, he took therefore the heritage," he saith: "Dauid, in his mercie, he gat the siege of the kingdom in worlds. Hely for that he loued the zeale of Gods lawe, was taken vppe into heauen. Ananie, Azarye, and Misael," hee saies, " weren deliueret thoore through true beliefe out of the hot flame of lire. Daniel vi. 22.True Daniel in his simplenes was deliueret from the lyons mouthe. Bethinke ye therefore," he saies, "by generation and generation, and thou shalt neuer finde that he fayled that man that truely trusted in him. And therefore dread you nought," he saies, "of the words of a sinfull man: his glory is," he saies, "but wormes and tordes: hee is to day," he saith, "y made hie, to morow he saies he is not founden, for he is turned," he sayes, "into his earth againe, and the mind of him is perishet. Sonnes therefore" he saies, " be ye comfortet, and die manly in the law: for when ye han done that that God commaunds you to doe, ye shulen be glorious in him" And Dauid the king saies also on this wise in the PsalterPsalme cxix. 2. booke: " blesset be they (Lord) that keepen thy law, in worldes of worldes they shall praise thee." And in LeuiticusLevit. xxii. 31. sayes God thus: "gif that yee wenden in mine hestes and keepen my commaundementes, and done hem, I shal bring forth their fruit, and trees shall be fulfilled with apples. And ye shallen eate your bread in fulnesse, ye shoulen dwell in your land without drede, I shall giue peace in your costes, ye shal sleepe and no man shall feare you. Euill beastes I shal done away from you, and sword shal not passe your termes, ye shuln pursue your enemies, and they shall fall before you; fiftie of yours shulne pursue an hundreth of heren, an hundret of yours, a thousand of theirs: your enemies," he saith, "shulen fal through sword, and your sute. I shall" he sayes, "behold you and make you to waxe, and yee shall be multipliet: And I shall strength with you my couenant, ye shall eat the aldest, and the new shull come in thereon. And yee shuln cast forth the olde, I shall dwell in the midst of you. And I shal wend amonges you, and shal be your God, and ye shulne be my people. If that yee heare me not, ne done nought all my hestes, but dispisen my law, and my domes, and that ye done not the things that of me bene ordenet, and breaken my commaundements and my couenant: I shall doe these things to you. I shall visite you surely in nede and brenning, which shal dimme your eghenen, and shal wast your liues about nought: Ye shulne sowe your sede, for hit shal be deuouret of enemies; I shal put my face against you, and ye shall fall before your enemies. And ye shulden be vnderlinges to them that ban hatet you, ye shall flee, no man pursuing. And if ye will not be buxome to me, I shall adde, therevnto, thornes, and seuenfold blame. And I shall all to brast the hardnes of you, I shall geue the heauen aboue you as yron, and the earth as brasse. About nought shall your labour be, for the earth shall bring you forth no fruit, ne tree shall geue none apples to you. If that ye wenden against me, and will not heare me, I shall adde hereto, seuen fold woundes for your sinnes. I shall send amongest you beastes of the field that shall deuour you and your beastes, I shall bring you into a field, and wayes shuln be desart. And if that ye will not receiue lore, but wenden againste me, I will also wenden againste you, and I shall smite you seuen sithes for your sinnes. I shall leade in vpon you, sword, vender of my couenant: and vpon the fleen into cities, I shal send pestilence in the middest of you. So that ten women shall bake their bread in one furnace, and yeld them again by waight, and ye shall eat, and not be fillet. If that yee heare me not by these things, but wenden against me, I shall wend in against you in a contrarie woodnesse, and blame you with seuen plagues for your sinnes; so that they soulen eat the flesh of your sonnes and of your daughters. And insomuch my soule shall loth you, that I shall bring your cities into wildernesse, and your sanctuaries I shall make desart, ne I shall not ouer that receiue sweet oder of your mouth. And I shall disperkle your land, and enemies shulen maruel thereon, when they shulen inhabite it; I shal disperkel you among heathen, and draw my sworde after you." These vengeances and many mo, God said should fall on them that breake his bidding, and dispiseth his lawes, and his domes. Than sithe Christ become man, and bought vs with his heart bloud, and has shewed vs so great loue, and giuen vs an easie law, of the best that euer might be made, and to bring vs to the ioy of heauen, and we dispise it and louen it nought; what vengeance will be taken here on, so long as he has suffered vs, and so mercifully abidden, when Hee shall come, that righteous iudge, in the cloudes, to deme this world? Therefore turne we vs to him, and leaue sinne that hee hates, and, ouer all thinges, maintaine his law that he confirmed with his death. For other lawes that men had made, should be demed, at that day, by the iust law of Christ, and the maker that them made; and then we wonne that long life and that ioy that Poul speaketh of, "that eye ne see not, ne eare heard not, ne into mans heart ascended not," the blisse and ioy that God hath ordeined to them that louen him and his lawes.

The faithfull request of William Swinderby.Deare worshipfull sirs, in this world I beseech you for Christes loue, as ye that I trow louen Gods law and trouth, (that, in these daies, is greatly borne abacke) that they wollen vouchsafe these thinges, that I send you written, to Gods worship, to let them be shewed in the parliament as your wits can best conceiue, to most worship to our God, and to shewing of the trouth and amending of holy church. My conclusions and mine appeale, and other true matters of Gods law (gif any man can find therin error, falsenesse, or default, prouet by the law of Christ clearly to christen mens knowledge), I shall reuoke my wrong conceit, and by Gods law be amendet: euer readie to holde with Gods law, openly and priuily, with Gods grace, and nothing to hold, teach, or maintaine, that is contrarie to his law.

Of the process, answers, and condemnation, of this worthy priest, and true servant of Christ, William Swinderby, you have heard. What afterwards became of him I have not certainly to say or affirm; whether he in prison died, or whether he escaped their hands, or whether he was burned, there is no certain relation made. This remaineth out of doubt, that during the life of king Richard II., no great harm was done unto him, which was to the year 1399,[2] at which time, king Richard being wrongfully deposed, Henry IV. invaded the kingdom of England; about the beginning of whose reign we read of a certain parliament holden at London, mentioned also by Thomas Walden, as is above specified, in which parliament it was decreed, that whosoever showed themselves to be favourers of Wickliff, who at that time were called Lollards, they should be apprehended; and if so be they did obstinately persevere in that doctrine, they should be delivered over unto the bishop of the diocese, and from him should be committed to the correction of the secular magistrate. This law, (saith the story) brought a certain priest to punishment the same year, who was burned in Smithfield in the presence of a great number. This have we drawn out of a piece of an old story, and it is most certain that such a priest was burned there for the affirmation of the true faith, but it doth not appear by the story what the priest's name was: notwithstanding, by divers conjectures, it appeareth unto me that his name was Swinderby, who was forced to recant, before, by the bishop of Lincoln. Whereby what is to be conjectured by the premises, let other men judge what they think, I have nothing hereof expressly to affirm. This is plain for all men to judge, who have here seen and read his story, that if he were burned, then the bishops, friars, and priests, who were the causes thereof, have a great thing to answer to the Lord, when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, et seculum per ignem

  1. Reckoned.
  2. The date which our Author here assigns for the death of king Richard is 1401, although he gives the received date of the accession of Henry IV. on a subsequent page. The Editor has corrected this error; nor would he have noticed it, had not an attack upon Foxe's veracity, in "Baddeley's Sure Way," (p. 51) been founded upon it. "Fox," he states, "writes that Swinderby's martyrdom was in 1400, and yet he says," alluding to this erroneous date, "'that in 1401 no great harm was done him.'" The impartial reader can form but one opinion, as to the propriety of founding a charge upon that which is obviously an error of the press.—Ed.