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1217 [1217]

K. Hen. 8. The letter of Iohn Fryth. Hys sentence and condemnation.

sumed in any place, wherfore it must necessarily followe, the wordes of Chrisostome to be vnderstanded in suche sense as I haue declared.

Here peraduenture many would meruaile, MarginaliaA question asked vvith the cause declared, vvhy that seing the matter of the Sacramēt of it self, importeth neither saluatiō nor dānation, vvhy thē Fryth offreth him self to death for the same.that for so muche as the matter touching the substaunce of the Sacrament, being seperate from the Articles of fayth, and binding no man of necessity either vnto saluation or dampnation whether he beleue it or not, but rather may be left indifferentlye vnto all men, frelye to iudge either on the one parte or the other, according to his own minde, so that neither part do contemne or despise the other, but that loue and charity be still holden, and kept in this dissention of opinions: what then the cause is, why I would therfore willingly suffer death. The cause why I die is this, for that I can not agree with the Diuines, and other head Prelates, that it should be necessarely determined to be an article of faith, and that we shoulde beleue vnder paine of damnation, the substance of the bread and wine to be chaunged into the bodye and bloud of oure Sauiour Iesus Christ, the forme and shape only not being chaunged. Which thing if it were most true (as they shall neuer be able to proue it by anye authoritye of the scripture or Doctours) yet shall they not so bryng to passe, that that doctrine, were it neuer so true, should bee holdē for a necessary article of the faith. For there are many thinges both in the scriptures and other places, which we are not bound of necessitye to beleue as an article of fayth. So it is true, that I was a prisoner & in bondes whē I wrote these thinges, and yet for al that, I will not holde it as an Article of fayth, Marginalia* This is to be weyed with the tyme when Fryth wrote.* but that you may also without daūger or damnation, eyther beleue it or thinke the contrary. 

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This is largely a close paraphrase of page 454 of the Russell edition. Frith here reiterates his adiaphora opinion with regard to the interpretation of the sacrament as having salvation value.

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But as touching the cause why I can not affirme the doctrine of transsubstanciation, diuers reasones do lead me therunto. MarginaliaThree causes why the doctrine of transubstantiation is not to be beleued.First, for þt I do plainly see it to be false and vaine, and not to be grounded vpon anye reason, eyther of the scriptures, or of approued doctors.

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MarginaliaThe second cause.Secōdly, for þt by my exāple I would not be an author vnto Christians to admit any thing as a matter of faith, more then the necessary poyntes of theyr Crede, wherin the whole sum of our saluatiō doth consist, specially such thinges, the belefe wherof haue no certeine argument of authority or reason. I added moreouer, that theyr church (as they call it) hath no such power and authority, that it either ought or may binde vs vnder the perill of our soules, to the beleuing of any such Articles.

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MarginaliaThe thyrd cause.Thirdly, because I will not for the fauor of our Diuines or Priestes, be preiudiciall in this point, vnto so manye Nations of Germaines, Heluetianes, and other, which altogether reiecting the transsubstanciation of the bread and wine into the body and bloud of Christ, are al of the same opinion that I am, as well those which take Luthers part, as those which hold with Oecolampadius. Which thinges standing in thys case, I suppose there is no man of any vpryght conscience, which will not allow the reason of my death, whiche I am putt vnto for this only cause, that I do not thinke transubstanciation, although it were true in dede, to be establyshed for an Article of fayth. 

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This is largely a close paraphrase of page 455 of the Russell edition. Frith here discusses the commonplaces of his own doctrine with those of the Lutherans ['Germaines'] and Zwinglians ['Helvesianes'] in that all of them deny the traditional Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Although the word itself was often left out of official proclamations, as supreme head of the church Henry VIII was devoted to two firm doctrines - the real presence and the value of infant baptism - and those who denied these in any way (called 'Sacramentarians' and 'Anabaptists') - were subject to arrest and heresy charges throughout his reign. Frith would have been considered a Sacramentarian. After this point Foxe mentions Frith's trial at bishop Stokesley's court at St Paul's once again.

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And thus much hetherto as touchyng the Articles & whole disputatiō of Iohn Frith, which was done withall moderation and vprightnes. But whē as no reason would preuaile agaynst the force and cruelty of these furious foes, the xx. day of Iune, in the yeare of our Lord. 1533. hee was brought before the Byshops of London, Winchester, and Lincolne, who sittyng in Paules vpon Friday, the xx. day of Iune, ministred certeine interrogatories vpon the Sacrament of the Supper and Purgatory, vnto the said Frith, as is aboue declared. To the which, when he had aūswered & shewed hys mynde in forme and effect as by his owne wordes aboue doth appeare, he afterward subscribed to hys aunsweres with his owne hande, in these wordes.

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MarginaliaThe subscription of Iohn Fryth.Ego Frithus ita sentio, & quemadmodum sentio, ita dixi, scripsi, asserui, & affirmaui.

¶ That is to say.

I Frith do thus thinke, & as I thinke, so haue I said, written, taught, and affirmed, and in my bookes haue published.

But when as by no meanes he could bee persuaded to recant these Articles aforesayd, neither bee brought to beleue that the Sacrament is an Article of faith, but sayd, Fiat Iudicium & Iustitia: MarginaliaIoh. Frith cōdemned.hee was condemned by the Byshop of London to be burned, and sentence geuen agaynst him: the tenour wherof here ensueth. 

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Foxe's description of Frith's trial where he refused to recant his opinions on the two articles charged against him.

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¶ The sentence geuen agaynst Iohn Frith.

MarginaliaSentence agaynst Ioh. FrithIN the name of God. Amen. We Iohn by the permissiō of God, Byshop of London, lawfully and ryghtly procedyng withall godly fauour by authoritye and vertue of our office, agaynst thee Iohn Frith of our iurisdiction, before vs personally here present, beyng accused and detected and notoriously sclaundered of heresye, hauyng heard, sene, and vnderstand, and with diligent deliberation wayed, discussed, and considered the merites of the cause, all thynges beyng obserued whiche by vs in this behalfe by order of law ought to bee obserued, sittyng in our iudgement seate, the name of Christ beyng first called vpon, and hauyng Marginalia* As they had which crucified Christ.* God onely before our eyes, because by the actes enacted, propounded and exhibited in this matter, and by thyne owne confession iudicially made before vs, we do finde that thou hast taught, holden and affirmed and obstinatelye defended diuers errours and heresies and damnable opinions, contrary to the doctrine and determination of the holy Churche, and specially agaynst the reuerent Sacrament, and albeit that wee folowyng the example of Christ, which woulde not the death of a sinner, but rather that he shoulde conuerte and liue, haue oftentymes gone about to correct thee, and by all lawfull meanes that we could, and most wholesome admonitions that we dyd knowe, to reduce thee agayne vnto the true fayth, and the vnitye of the vniuersall Catholicke Church, notwithstandyng we haue founde thee obstinate and stifnecked, willynglye continuyng in thy damnable opinions and heresies, & refusing to returne agayn vnto the true faith and vnitye of the holy mother Church, & as the childe of wickednes and darknes, so to haue hardened thy hart that thou wilt not vnderstand the voyce of thy shepheard, whiche with a fatherly affection doth seke after thee, nor wilt not bee allured with his godly and fatherly admonitions: We therfore Iohn the Bishop aforesaid, not willing that thou which arte wicked, shouldest become more wicked, and infecte the Lordes flocke with thy heresye, which we are greatlye afraide of, doe iudge thee, and definitiuelye condemne thee the said Ihon Fryth, thy demerites and faults being aggrauate through they damnable obstinacye, as gilty of moste detestable heresies, & as an obstinate vnpenitent sinner, refusing penitently to returne to the lappe and vnitye of the holy mother Church, and that thou hast bene & art by lawe excommunicate, & pronounce & declare thee to be an excommunicate person: also we pronounce and declare thee being an heretyke to be caste out from the Churche, and lefte vnto the iudgement of the seculer power, and now presently so do leaue thee vnto the seculer power, and theyr iudgement, moste earnestlye requiring them in the bowells of our Lord Iesus Christe, that this execution and punishment worthely to be done vpon thee, MarginaliaModeratiō pretended, but none shewed.may so be moderate, that the rigour therof be not too extreme, nor yet the gentlenes to much mittigated, but that it may be to the saluation of thy soule, to the extirpation, terror, and conuersiō of heretikes, to the vnity of the catholicke fayth, by thys our sentence definitiue or finall decree, whiche we here promulgate in this forme aforesaid. 

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This is the judgement of Bishop Stokesley made against Frith, prior to turning him over to the temporal authorities for execution. Stokesley was a rather doctrinaire conservative and Foxe probably rightly suspected that where the bishop speaks of charity he was rather quite pleased to see another 'heretic' removed.

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MarginaliaIoh. Fryth deliuered to the secular handes.Thys sentence thus read, the Byshop of London directed hys letter, to Syr Steuen Pecocke Maior of London and the Shriues of the same Citie, for the receiuyng of the foresayd Iohn Frith into their charge. Who beyng so deliuered ouer vnto them the iiij. day of Iuly in the yeare aforesayd, was by them caryed into Smithfield to be burned, MarginaliaThe constant death of Iohn Fryth. 

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This is Foxe's description of Frith's burning.

and when he was tyed vnto the stake, there it sufficiently appeared with what constancye & courage he suffred death: for when as the fagots & fire were put vnto hym, he willyngly embraced the same, therby declaryng with what vnprightnes of mynde he suffered his death for Christes sake and the true doctrine, wherof that day he gaue with his bloud, a perfect and firme testimonie. The wynde made hys death somewhat the more longer, whiche bare away the flame from hym vnto hys felowe that was tyed to hys backe: but hee had established hys mynde with

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