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1187 [1187]

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

Masse, or the Sacrament: whiche maketh me thinke, that hee was yet ignoraunt and also deuoute, as other then were. 

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Bilney never denied the traditional doctrine of the Mass or transubstantiation.

MarginaliaThe fourth reason of M. More.Also fourthly, be it admitted, as M. More sayth, that in receauyng of the Sacrament, hee holdyng vp his handes should say the collect: Domine Iesu Christe: & cōming to these woordes, ecclesiæ tuæ pacem & concordiam, hee knocked vppon his brest, diuers tymes repeatyng the same wordes. &c. all this beyng graunted to M. More, yet it argueth no necessarye alteratiō of his former doctrine, whiche he preached and taught before. And yet if I lysted here to stand dalying with M. More, in the state inficiall, MarginaliaStatus inficialis, in Rethoricke is when one standeth to the deniall of the facte.and denye that he affirmeth: how will he make good that which he sayth? He sayth that Bilney knelyng before the Chauncellour, desired absolutiō: Then cōmyng to Masse full deuoutly, required to receaue the body of Christ in forme of bread, repeatyng diuers tymes the woordes of the collect: Domine Iesu Christe. &c. By what argument proueth he all this to be so? MarginaliaAn argument of Mores authoritie.M. More in his preface before þe boke against Tindall 

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This refers to the preface materials, see Thomas More, 'A dialogue concerning heresies', in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vi/1-2 (New Haven, Y.U.P. 1981), 1. There is also a useful on-line discussion of the preface at http://extra.shu.ac.uk/emls/iemls/work/chapters/heresy1.html which is taken from Romuald Ian Lakowski, Sir Thomas More and the Art of Dialogue (unpub. Ph.D. dissertation, University of British Columbia, 1993), pp. 125-74.

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so saith, Ergo, it is certain. If M. More had neuer made fictiō in his writyngs beside, or had neuer brokē the head of veritie, in so many places of his bookes, as I could shewe him, then might this argument goe for somwhat. But here I aske, was this M. More present at the iudgement of Bilney? No. Or els what registers had he for his direction? None. Or els by what witnesses will he auouch this to be certeine? Goe, & seke these witnesses (good reader) where thou canst find them, for M. More nameth none. Onely because M. More so sayth, this is sufficiēt. Well, giue this to M. More, MarginaliaM. Mores credite crackt.(althoughe he hath crakte his credite so often, & may almost be banckroute) yet let his word go for payment at this tyme, and let vs imagine all to be oracles, that he sayth: yet neuertheles, here must nedes remaine a scruple. For what will M. More (or because he is gone) what will his disciples say to this, 
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This is another reference to Nicolas Harpsfield. In 1566, Harpsfield published a treatise entitled Dialogi sex contra summi Pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatoreset pseudomartyrs (Antwerp, 1566) which was very critical of Foxe's original 1563 conclusions.

that if Bilney was before assoyled vpō his iudgement, as they pretend, how was he thē afterward degraded? What assoylyng is this, to be forgeuen first, and then to be punished after? Agayne, if he were (as they surmise) conuerted so fully to the Catholicke fayth, and also assoyled, why then did the Chauncellour sticke so greatly for a while, to housel him wt the body of Christ, in forme of bread? I am sure þt if Christ had bene here him selfe in forme of his own fleshe, he would nothyng haue stoocke to receiue him, being so cōuerted at þe first.

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To be short, if Bilney was so graciously reduced to þe holy mother þe Catholicke Church, repentyng his errours, & detesting his heresies, & now being in no Purgatory, but beyng a very Saint in heauen, as ye say he is: why then did ye burne him, whō your selues knew should be a Saint? Thus if ye burne both Gods enemies, & gods Saintes too, what cruel mē are you? MarginaliaThe lawe of relapse.
Extrauag. de haret. Super eo.
But here you wil alledge perhaps, your law of relapse, by þe which þe first fall is pardonable, but þe second fall into heresie, is in no case pardonable: for so stādeth your law, I graunt. 

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The canon law regarding unrepentant relapsed heretics was uncompromising. See J A Guy, The public career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 169; idem, 'The legal context of the controversy: the law of heresy', in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, x (New Haven, 1980), pp. xlvii-lxvii.

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But how this law stādeth with þe true church of Christ, & with his word, now let vs reason. For this beyng a lawe, not of politicke or ciuill gouernement, (where such lawes be expediēt for publicke necessitie) but onely beyng a law mere ecclesiasticall, what a cruel mother Churche is this, whiche will not and can not forgeue her children rysing and repentyng the second fault or errour committed, MarginaliaMores wordes in hys preface.but needes must burne their bodies, that their soules may bee saued from the paynefull passion of Purgatory, whō neuertheles they know forthwith shall be blessed in heauen? If God do saue thē, why do you burne them? If God do pardon thē, why do you condemne thē? MarginaliaThe Popes lawe disagreing from the condition of the true church of Christ.And, if this be the law of your Churche, accordyng to your doctrine, to burne them at the second time, though they be amended: how then doth this Churche agree with the word of Christ, and nature of his true spouse, whiche onely seketh the repentaunce and amendement of sinners? which once being had, she gladly openeth her bosome, and motherly receaueth thē, whē so euer they returne. Wherfore, if Bilney did returne to your Church (as ye say he did) then was your Church a cruell mother & vnnaturall, which would not opē her bosome vnto him, but thrust him into the fire when he had repented. 
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Foxe is being a little disingenuous here. Bilney was, as was the law, burned by the authority of the temporary powers not by the church - heresy equated to treason.

Furthermore, how will you defend this law by the word of God, who in expresse wordes teachyng all Byshops and Pastors, by the exāple of Christ the great Byshop of our soules, (being compassed about with tentatiōs, that he might haue the more compassion of them whiche be infirme) exhorteth all other spirituall pastors by the like example, saying: Hebr. 5. For euery Bishop, whiche is taken from among men, is ordeined for men, in thinges perteynyng to God, to offer giftes and sacrifice for sinnes, that he may be mercifull to the ignoraunt, and to such as erre, for so much as he him selfe is compassed about with infirmitie. &c. 
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Hebrews 5.1-2.

MarginaliaHeb. 5.Besides whiche Scripture, adde also that some Doctours of the Canon lawe, if they be well scande, will not denye but that they whiche bee fallen in relapse, whether it bee verè, or fictè, yet if they earnestly returne from their errours before the sentence bee giuen, they may bee sent to perpetual prisō in some monastery. &c. MarginaliaBilney needed not to be burned by the sentēces of the Canon lawe.
Ex tractatu cuiusdam Doct. Canonista.
Wherfore, if Bilney did so earnestly retract and detest his former opinions, so many daies (as More saith) before his sufferyng, thē neded not he to suffer that death as he did, but might haue bene sent to perpetuall prisō.

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Thus, although I nede not to stand longer vpō this matter, beyng so playne, and hauyng sayd enough: yet (briefly to repeate that before hath ben sayd) this I say agayne: first if Thomas Bilney was assoyled from excōmunication, and after that heard his Masse so deuoutly, and at the end of the Masse, was confessed, and consequently after confession was houssled, and lastly asked mercye for contemnyng of the Churche, as M. More doth beare vs in hand (to see now howe this tale hangeth together) MarginaliaM. Mores tale full of absurdities.why then did the Chauncellour sticke so greatly to giue him the Sacrament of the aultar, whom hee him selfe had assoyled, and receaued to the Sacrament of penaunce before, which is playne agaynst the Canon lawe? Againe, the sayd Thomas Bilney, if hee were now receaued to the mother Church, by the Sacramētes both of penaunce, and of the aultar: why then was he afterward disgraded, and cut from the Church, sith the Canon permitteth no degradation, but to thē which onely be incorrigible? Furthermore, the sayd Bilney, if he being conuerted so many dayes before (as More pretendeth) to þe Catholicke faith, was now no hereticke, how then did the sentence pronounce him for an hereticke? or finally how could they, or why would they burne him beyng a catholicke, especially sith the Canon law would beare with him to be iudged rather to perpetuall prison in some monasterye, as is afore touched, if they had pleased?

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MarginaliaA summarye aunswere to M. More, or in his absence, to Alane Cope.Wherfore, in three wordes to aunswere to M. More, First all this tale of his may be doubted, because of the matter not hangyng together. Secondly, it may also as well be denyed, for the insufficiencie of probation, and testimonie. Thirdlye, if all this were graunted, yet neither hath M. More any great aduauntage agaynst Bilney to proue him to haue recanted: nor yet Maister Cope agaynst me, which by the authoritie of M. More seeketh to beare me down, & disproue my former story. 

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Another reference to Nicolas Harpsfield's treatise, Dialogi sex contra summi Pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatoreset pseudomartyrs (Antwerp, 1566) which was itself very critical of Foxe's original 1563 edition.

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For be it graunted that Bilney at his death, did hold with the Masse, with confession, and with the authoritie of theyr Romishe Church, beyng an humble spirited man, & yet no further brought: yet all this notwithstandyng proueth not that he recanted. MarginaliaMores consequent denyed.For so much as hee neuer held nor taught any thyng before agaynst the premisses, therfore he could not recante that whiche he neuer did hold. For the better demonstratiō wherof, I will recite out of the Registers, some part of

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