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557 [51]

thinke theyre opinions to be of so great force and effect that they should seme to be worthye of all these tragidies, for so much as they doo not of necessity touch neyther the damnation nor saluation of soules: 

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Foxe is here making an adiaphoric argument, in common with Erasmus and others, that the exact determination of the presence in the sacrament has no value in terms of salvation.

and againe they are not so far discrepant amongst them selues, but that they may by reson be reconciled, so that there be some temperature of frithes moderation adhibited therunto, which may somthing impetrate and obteine on either parte.

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Those which iudge the reason of the sacrament to be spiritually vnderstanded do thinke well, and peraduenture do drawe nere vnto christes minde & institution, but notwithstandinge they be neuer a whit beter men thē they which following the letter to gether with thē, doo take away the superfluity of the ceremonies they take away transubstantiation from the sacramēt, the like doth other also they take away the sacrifice of the priuate masse, þe same also do the other these men put away all false worshippinge the other also doo not suffer it but bothe partes doo affirme the presence of Christe in the misticall supper. hetherto they both haue agreed in these articles, what cause is there then of discorde? When as they both as I said do confesse the presence of christ, and disagre only vpon the manner of the presence which the one part doth affirm to be real, and the other spirituall. 

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Foxe is making another reference to the Colloquy of Marburg and the resulting schism in the ranks of the Protestants.

But howe much were it better in my opinion if that by a common consent of either party, they woulde come to this point, that euery man beinge contented with his owne opinion, we should all simply agree vpon the presence of Christ, that as touchinge the manner of his presence, euen as though all manner of disputation should cease for a time and so by little and little, al controuersyes, turned to truce & quietnes, vntil that time should brede more loue and charitye amongste men, or that loue and charity should finde a remeady for these controuersies. 
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Foxe is here taking up the point made by Erasmus once again and this is worth additional comment. In his The Handbook of the Christian Soldier (1503) (The Enchiridion militis christiani), Erasmus placed an emphasis on the individual and on the development of a personal, inward spirituality dependent on nothing but a genuine pursuit of faith, eschewing those ceremonies with a heavy material emphasis - the Mass, pilgrimages, veneration of saints, images, indulgences - which had largely replaced and overwhelmed the actual central message, just as rigid dogma and doctrine has replaced the ideas they were originally meant to explain. To address this disorder Erasmus wanted to switch the emphasis for Christians back to the words, teachings, actions and example of the Christ himself. The Handbook was, therefore, a step-by-step plan for self-improvement, divided into two parts, a series of essays on the nature of man and on the importance of reading scripture, thematically connected through the imagery of a warrior arming himself with all the spiritual, non-material weapons and shields he will ever need for the constant spiritual battles ahead, followed up twenty-two rules of genuine Christianity. Erasmus is preaching a basic sola scriptura method of fulfilling one's own spiritual needs supplemented by a pursuit of edifying moral literature. His was an anti-materialistic message which, by necessity, drew attention away from the material elements of the sacrament and toward the spiritual elements. Zwingli could adopt this Erasmian doctrine as his own, repeating the emphasis on the spiritual, while Luther could not accept it, as he placed emphasis on the physical presence of the Christ in the elements. A good discussion of Erasmus' doctrine can be found in Cornelis Augustijn, Erasmus: His life, works and influence, trans. by J C Grayson (Toronto, 1991)].

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But this shall nowe suffice for this presente beinge more then I was determined to speak and broughte hether by occasyon of Iohn Frith, I know not my selfe by what winde or weather and peraduenture was somewhat to far passed into the germaine seas. But nowe casting the helme about we wil hold our course that wee hadde begonne into Englande, and intreate of the deathe and examynation of Frith.

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After that he had now sufficiently contended in his writings with More Rochester and Rastall, Mores sonne in lawe 

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Actually, John Rastel was married to More's younger sister Elizabeth. See Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More (London, 1998), p.9.

, he was at the last caried to lambeth first before the bishop of Canterbury, and afterward vnto Croidon before the bishop of Winchester to pleade his cause. Last of all he was called before the bishoppes in a common assembly at London wheras he constantly defended him selfe if he might haue bene hard. The order of his iudgemente, also and the manner of his examination, what Articles were also obiected againste him, was vnderstande euen of him selfe by a briefe Commentarye wrytten, and sente vnto hys frendes out of the prison. 
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Foxe constricts the chronology of Frith's trials to a certain extent and leaves out some interesting details. Frith was burned as a heretic on 4 July 1533, having first faced trial before Cranmer, sitting in court at Lambeth palace, with Stokesley, Longland, the duke of Suffolk, the Lord Chancellor (Sir Thomas Audley) and the earl of Wiltshire assisting. Cranmer, in a letter of 17 June 1533, noted that he had tried to persuade Frith to recant 'three or four times' previously - for which see Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. by J E Cox (Cambridge, 1846), letter no.xiv, p.246. Prior to leaving Frith to the tender mercies of Stokesley, he was sent to appear before Gardiner, at his court in Croyden (22 December 1532). Frith would have been a useful addition to Cromwell's propaganda machine, if he could have been persuaded away from what Henry VIII considered sacramentarianism (one of only two heresies - with Anabaptism) for which the penalty throughout the reign was death. Gardiner could not talk Frith around, so he was brought before Stokesley's court at St Paul's on 20 June 1533 (Longland and Gardiner assisting). See BL Lansdowne MS 979, fol.92v; London Guildhall MS 9531/11: Episcopal Register Stokesley 1530-39, fol.71r. Frith dispatched a letter from prison to his friends on 23 June 1533. This is known as The Articles wherefore John Frith died which he wrote in Newgate the 23rd day of June … - for which, see The works of the English Reformers: William Tyndale and John Frith, ed. By Thomas Russell, 3 vols. (London, 1831), 3, pp.450-5.

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Wherin, after he had first with a briefe preface saluted them, he saide these woordes. I know that it is greuous vnto your hartes and mindes, that our aduersaries do take vnto thē selues all the talke, and wil not leaue vs anye libertye to aunswer, whatsoeuer iust thynges wo do aledge, notwithstanding I exhorte and monish you, to geue ouer vnto the handes of God which is a iust iudge, all thys your cares what so euer it is, and the whole cause, who will begin a farre other kinde of iudgemente, and that verye shortlye I truste. In the meane time I haue wrytten vnto you as brieflye as I maye, what articles were obiected agaynste me, and what the principal poyntes of my condempnation was, that ye mighte vnderstande the matter certenly.

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First of all the whole matter of the examination was comprhendid in. ii. special articles that is to say of purgatory, and of the substāce of the sacrament.

MarginaliaPurgatoryAnd first of all, as touchinge purgatory they enquired of me, whether I did beleue that ther was any place to purge the spottes and filthe of the dead after this life. I, by and by, vtterly denied that there was any such place sainge: That for so much as the nature of man did cōsist onlye of two partes. That is to saye of the body and the minde, wherof the one is purged here in thys worlde, by diuers crosses and afflictions laide vpon vs by Christ, whiche chastiseth euery childe that he receiueth by affliction, oppressyon of the world, persecution and imprisonment &c. And last of al the rewarde of sinne which is death, is laid vpon vs. But our soule is purged with the word of God, which we do drinke in, throughe faith to the saluation bothe of body and soule, wherfore if ye wil shewe me a thirde parte of manne besyde the bodye and the soule, I wyll also graunt vnto you a thirde place, whiche you doo call purgatorye. But if ye can not doo this, I muste also of necessity denye vnto you the Bishops shop of purgatory.

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All be it I doo not iudge the matter of purgatorye to be so waighty, that it should greatlye pertaine, either to the saluatyon, or condempnation of anye man, vpon whyche parte so euer he should determine it.

Secondly it was enquired of me, touchyng the sacrament of the altare, whether it was the very body of Christ or no. 

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Foxe here almost directly lifts the text of the Frith letter. According to Frith (and substantiated by Stokesley's register) there were two counts against him with regard to the doctrine of purgatory (which he denied) and the doctrine of the real presence in the Eucharist. Purgatory was dealt with first (pages 450-1 in the Russell edition). With regard to his purgatorial doctrine, Frith had not moved far from his earlier treatises. For example, he held that St Augustine interpreted 'fire' in 1 Corinthians 3 not with purging but with temptations and tribulations in life. Thus, if he did make a concession it was only that if purgatory existed it would have to exist in this life (pertaining as it does to the body and physical matters) and not after death (pertaining as that does to the spiritual and the mind). Frith used the texts of 1 John 1:7-9 to explain himself, adopting a basic Zwinglian approach (justification and sanctification), nonetheless maintaining an adiaphoric stance with regard to salvation itself - see Raynor, p.110.

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