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1186 [1186]

K. Henry. 8. Defense of Thomas Bilney, agaynst M. More.

comforte, but onely in returnyng to þe same doctrine agayne whiche before he had renyed, vtterly resignyng him selfe ouer to death, and takyng his leaue of hys frendes, and settyng his face with Christ, purposely to go to Hierusalē, voluntarily there to fall into þe handes of the Scribes and Phariseis for that doctrines sake, 

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Foxe is alluding to the writings of St Paul in Acts 19.21 & 20.22.

should nowe so soone, euen at the first brunt, giue ouer to the contrary doctrine agayne. It is not like. God was so good Lorde vnto hym, sayth M. More. That God was good Lorde vnto hym, very true it is. But that God did so turne him in deede, to bee a member of the Romishe Church, that hath not M. More yet sufficientlye proued. To affyrme without proufe or demonstration, in matters of storye, it is not sufficient. But what hath bene done in deede, that must be proued by good euidence and speciall demonstratiō of witnesses, that we may certainly knowe it so to be. 
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As Lord Chancellor More worked in close cooperation against the rising tide of heresy in the capital with John Stokesley, the bishop of London. See J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 166-74.

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MarginaliaThe first reason of M. More.It followeth moreouer in M. More. And there lacked not some (sayth hee) that were very sory for it. No doubt, but if Bilney had so relented, some woulde haue bene verye sorye therfore. But what one man in all this summe, in all Norwich was sory, that M. More must specifie vnto vs, before we beleue him: so well are we acquainted with hys Poeticall fictions. But how els should this narration of M. More seme to runne with probabilitie, if it were not watered with such additions? He addeth moreouer, & sayth: And some wrote out of Norwich to London that he had not reuoked his heresies at all, but still did abyde in them. This soundeth rather to come more nere to a truth. And here is a knacke of Sinons arte, 

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This is a reference to the famous 'Trojan horse' story. Sinon was the Greek 'deserter' who tricked the Trojans into dragging the wooden horse into the city. The phrase has come to refer to any story which contains just enough truth to be convincing.

MarginaliaRead of Sinon in the. 2. boke of Virgil: who craftilye mixeth true thynges with false, to betraye the Citie of Troye.to enterlard a tale of vntruth with some parcell of truth now and then among, that some thynges beyng found true, may wynne credite to the rest, whiche is vtterly false. And why then be not the letters of these Norwich men beleued, for the not recanting of Bilney? Because (sayth he) afterward they beyng called to examinatiō, it was there proued plainely to their faces, that Bilney reuoked. By whō was it proued? By those (sayth hee) whiche at his execution stode by, and heard him read his reuocation him selfe, &c. What mē were these? or what were their names? or what was any one mans name in all the Citie of Norwich, þt heard Bilney recāte? There M. More will giue vs leaue to seke thē out if we can, for he cā name vs none. Well, & why could not þe other part heare Bilney read his reuocatiō, as well as these? Because (sayth More) he read it so softely, þt they could not heare him. 
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Foxe's account is the only surviving record of the Norwich trial before bishop Nix in 1531 which was, apparently, for his denial of papal supremacy. See John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24 (1981), p. 786.

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Well, all thys admitted, that Bilney read his reuocation so softelye, that some coulde heare, some could not heare him, then this woulde bee knowen, what was the cause why Bilney read hys reuocatiō so softly? which must nedes be either for lacke of good wil to read, or good voice to vtter. If good wil were absent in reading that reuocatiō, then it appeareth þt he recanted agaynst his owne minde and conscience. If it were by imbecillitie of voyce and vtterance, then how foloweth it M. More in this your narratiō, where you say, that the sayd persons, whiche could not heare hym read the bill, yet notwithstandyng coulde heare him rehearse certayne other thinges spoken by him the same time at the fire, wherby they coulde not but perceiue well, that he reuoked his errours. &c. MarginaliaM. More here painteth Antikes.Ah M. More, for all your pouder of experience, do ye thinke to cast such a myste before mens eyes, that we can not see how you iudgle with truth, and take you tardye in your owne narration? vnlesse peraduenture you will excuse your selfe, per licentiam Poeticam, after þe priuiledge of Poetes and paynters, for as ye know the olde libertie of these two: Pictoribus atq; Poetis,

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Quælibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas.

Now if this vayne of yours, whiche so extremely rayleth and fareth agaynst the poore Martyrs and seruauntes of Christ, be so copious, that you dare take in hand any false matter to proue, and to make men beleue, that Bilney dyed a Papist, yet the maner of handlyng hereof would haue required some more artificiall conueiance: Mēdacem enim (vt scis) memorem esse oportet: that men, although they see the matter to bee false, yet might commende the workemanshyp of the handler, which (to say the truth) neither hangeth with it self, nor beareth any semblance of any truth. But because M. More is gone and dead, 

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Thomas More was executed on 6 July 1535.

I will cease any farther to insulte vpon him, lest I may seme to incurre the same vice of his, in mordendo mortuos. Yet for so much as his bookes be not yet dead, but remaine alyue to the hurt of many, hauyng therefore to do, not with him, but with his booke disciples, this would I knowe, how hangeth thys geare together: MarginaliaMarke how these thynges hang together.Bilney was heard, and yet not heard: he spake softely, and yet not softely. Some sayd he did recant: some sayd he did not recant. 
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For useful discussion of this point, see E Gow, 'Thomas Bilney and his Relations with Sir Thomas More', in Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society, 32 (1958-61), pp. 307-8 and E G Rupp, 'The Recantations of Thomas Bilney', in The London Quarterly and Holborn Review, 167 (1942), p. 182-4.

Ouer and besides, how will this be aūswered, that for so much as the sayd Bilney (as he sayth) reuoked many dayes before his burnyng, and the same was knowen to hym at London, then how chaunced the same could not bee as well knowen to them of Norwich? who (as his own story affirmeth) knew nothing therof before the day of his execution, then seyng a certeine bill in his hand, whiche some sayd was a byll of his reuocation, some other heard it not. All this would bee made playne, especially in such a matter as this is, whiche he knew hym selfe peraduenture to be false, at least, he knew would be doubted, suspected, and cōtraried of a great multitude.

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MarginaliaThe second reason of M. More.I passe now to his second reason, where hee reporteth, that the said Bilney forthwith, vpon his iudgement and degradation, kneled downe in the presence of all the people, and asked of the Chaūcellour, absolution from the sentence of excommunication, holdyng him well content with his death, whiche he confessed him selfe to haue deserued. &c.

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MarginaliaAunswereAs touchyng the pacient receauyng of his death, I do well assent, although I do not thinke that he had deserued any such for his doctrine. And as for hys knelyng down in the presence of the people vpon his iudgemēt and degradatiō, as I do not denye, but he might so do, so I suppose agayne, the cause of his knelyng not to be vnto the Chauncelor, to aske absolution from his excōmunication. And if he were assoiled from his excommunication, yet doth it not therupon folow, that he recanted, no more then before, when hee came to M. Latimer in his studye, humbly to bee confessed and assoyled from his sinnes, as the blyndnes of that tyme then led him. 

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For Bilney's confession to Latimer, see Hugh Latimer, 'First sermon on the Lord's Prayer, 1552', in Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), 1 pp. 334-5.

But whether he kneled downe and was assoyled, or no, neither was I there to see him, nor yet M. More hym self. And therfore with the lyke authoritie, as he affirmeth, I may denye the same, vnlesse he brought better demonstration for his assertion, then he doth, hauyng no more for him selfe, but onely his owne Marginalia* That is, he so sayth.* xxx. And yet neuertheles admitte he so dyd beyng a man of a timorus conscience, of an humble spirite, and not fully resolued touchyng that matter of the Church, yet it foloweth not therby (as is sayd) that hee reuoked his other Articles and doctrine, by him before professed.

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MarginaliaThe thyrd reason of M. More.The like aunswere may also be shaped to his thyrd reason, where he sayth: that certaine dayes after his iudgement, he made great labour, that he might receaue the blessed body of Christ in forme of bread, whiche the Chauncelor after a great sticking a while, at length did graunt, perceauyng his deuotion therto. &c. MarginaliaAunswere.Wherunto I aunswere as before, that it is not vnpossible, but that Bilney myght both heare Masse, and desire to receaue the Sacramēt: For in that matter, it may be, that he was not resolued otherwise, then common custome then led both him and many other. Neither do I finde in all the Articles obiected agaynst Bilney, that euer hee was charged with any such opinion, concernyng either the

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Mase,
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