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1006 [1005]

K. Henry. 8. Defence of Thomas Bilney agaynst M. More.

MarginaliaThe first reason of M. More. It followeth moreouer in M. More. And there lacked not some (sayth he) that were sory for it. No doubt, but if Bilney had so relented, some would haue ben very sory therfore. But what one man in all this summe, in all Norwich was sory that M. More must specifie vnto vs before we beleue hym: so well are we acquainted with his Poeticall fictiō. But how els should this narratiō of M. More seme to runne with probabilitie, if it were not watered with such additions? He addeth moreouer, and saith: 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. booke of Virgil: who craftely mixeth true thinges with false, to betray the Citie of Troye. to enterlard a tale of vntruth with some parcell of truth now and then among that some thinges beyng found true, may winne credite to the rest, which is vtterly false. And why then be not the letters of these Norwich men beleued, for the not recantyng of Bilney? Because (saith he) afterward they beyng called to examination, it was there proued plainly to their faces, that Bilney reuoked. By whō was it proued? By those (sayth he) which at his execution stode by, and heard him read hys reuocation hymselfe, &c. What men were these? or what were their names? or what was any one mans name in all the City of Norwich, that heard Bilney recant? There M. More will giue vs leaue to seeke them out if we can for he can name vs none. Well, and why could not the other part heare Bilney read his reuocation, as well as these? Because (sayth More) he read it so softly, that they could not heare hym. 
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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 this admitted, that Bilney read hys reuocation so softly, that some could heare, some could not heare him, thē this woulde be knowen, what was the cause why Bilney read hys reuocation so softly? which must nedes bee either for lacke of good wil to read, or good voyce to vtter. If good will were absent in reading that reuocation, then it appeareth that he recanted agaynst his owne mynd and consciēce. If it were by imbecillitie of voyce and vtteraunce, then how followeth it M. More in this your narration, where you say, that the sayd persons, which could not heare hym read the bill, yet notwithstandyng could heare him rehearse certayne other thinges spoken by him the same tyme at the fire, wherby they could not but perceaue 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 cannot see how you iudgle with truth, and take you tardy in your owne narration? vnlesse peraduenture you will excuse your selfe, per licentiam Poeticam, after the priuiledge of Poetes and paynters, for as ye know the olde liberty of these two: Pictoribus atque Poetis,

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Quælibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas.

Now if this vayne of yours, which so extremely rayleth and fareth agaynst the poore Martyrs and seruauntes of Christ, be so copious that you dare take in hande 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 conueyaunce: mendacem enim (vt scis) memorem esse oportet: that men, although they see the matter to be false, yet might commend the workemanship of the handler, which (to say the truth) neither hāgeth with it selfe, 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 further to insult vpon him, lest I may seme to incurre the same vice of hys, in mordendo mortuos. Yet for so much as hys bookes be not yet dead, but remayne alyue to the hurt of many, hauyng therfore to d not with hym, but with his boke disciples, this would I know how hangeth this geare together: MarginaliaMarke how these thinges hang together. Bilney was heard, and yet not heard: he spake softly and yet not softly. Some sayd he did recant: some sayd he dyd 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 answered, that for so much as the sayd Bilney (as he sayth) reuoked many dayes before his burning, & the same was knowen to him at London, then how chaunced the same could not be as well known to them of Norwich? who (as hys own story affirmeth) knew nothing therof before the day of his execution, then seyng a certaine bill in hys hand, which some sayd was a bill of hys reuocation, some other heard it not. Al this would be made playne, especially in such a matter as this is, which he knew himselfe peraduenture to be false, at least he knew would be doubted, suspected, and contraried of a great multitude.

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MarginaliaThe second reason of M. More I passe now to his second reason, where he reporteth, that the sayd Bilney forthwith vpon hys iudgement & degradation, kneled downe in the presence of all the people, and asked of the Chauncellor absolution from the sentence of excommunicatiō, holding him well contēt with his death which he confessed himselfe to haue deserued. &c.

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MarginaliaAunswere As touchyng the pacient receiuyng of his death, I doe well assent, although I do not thinke that he had deserued any such for his doctrine. And as for hys knelyng downe in the presence of the people, vpon his iudgement and degradation, as I do not deny but he myght so do, so I suppose agayne the cause of hys kneling not to be vnto the Chauncellor to aske absolution from hys excommunication. And if he were assoyled from his excommunication, yet doth it not therupon follow that he recanted, no more then before, when he came to M. Latimer in his study, humbly to be confessed and assoyled from hys sinnes as the blyndnes of that tyme then led hym. 

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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, neyther was I there to see hym, nor yet M. More himselfe. And therfore with the lyke authoritie as he affirmeth, I may deny the same, vnlesse he brought better demonstration for hys assertion thē he doth, hauing no more for himself but only his owne Marginalia* That is he so sayth. * xxx. And yet neuerthelesse admit he so did, beyng a man of a timorous consciēce of an humble spirit, and not fully resolued touching that matter of the church, yet it followeth not therby (as is said) that he reuoked hys other Articles and doctrine, by hym before professed.

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MarginaliaThe third reason of M. More. The lyke aunswer may also be shaped to his third reason where he sayth: that certayn dayes after hys iudgement, he made great labour that he might receaue the blessed bodye of Christ in forme of bread, which the Chauncellour after a great stickyng a while, at length did graunt, perceiuing his deuotion therto. &c. MarginaliaAunswere. Wherunto I aunswer as before, that it is not vnpossible, but that Bilney might both heare Masse, and desire to receiue the Sacrament: For in that matter it may be, that he was not resolued otherwise, then common custome then led both hym and many other. Neither doe I finde in all the articles obiected agaynst Bilney, that euer he was charged with any such opinion, concerning eyther the Masse or the Sacrament: whiche maketh mee thyncke, that he 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.

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MarginaliaThe fourth reason of M. More. Also fourthly, be it admitted, as M. More sayth, that in receiuing of the Sacrament, he holdyng vp hys hands should say the collect: Domine Iesu Christe: and comming to these wordes, ecclesiæ tuæ pacem & concordiam, he knocked vpon his brest, diuers tymes repeatyng the same wordes. &c. all this beyng graunted to M. More, yet it argueth no necessarye alteration of his former doctrine, which 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 whē one standeth to the denial of the facte. and denye þt he affirmeth: how will he make good that which he sayth? He sayth that Bilney knelyng before the Chauncellour, desired absolution: Then commyng to Masse full deuoutly, required to receaue the body of Christ in forme of breade, repeatyng diuers tymes the woordes of the collect: Domine Iesu Christe. &c. By what argument proueth he all this to be so? MarginaliaAn argumēt of Mores authoritie. M. More in his preface before the booke agaynst 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 sayth Ergo it is certain. If M. More had neuer made fiction in his writinges beside, or had neuer broken the head of veritie, in so many places of his bookes: as I could shew 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 hee for his direction? None. Or els by what witnesses will he auouch this to be certeine? Goe, and seke these witnesses (good reader) where thou canst finde them, for M. More nameth none. Onely because M. More so sayth, this is sufficient. Well, giue this to M. More, MarginaliaM. Mores credite crackt. (althoughe hee hath crakte his credite so often and may almost bee banckrout) yet let his word go for paymēt at this time, and let vs imagine all to be oracles, þt he sayth: yet neuertheles here must nedes remayne 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 vpon his iudgement, as they pretend, how was he then 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 with the body of Christ, in forme of bread? I am sure that if Christ had bene here him selfe in forme of his owne fleshe, he would nothyng haue stucke to receaue him, being so conuerted at the first.

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To be short, if Bilney was so graciously reduced to the holy mother the Catholicke Church, repētyng his errours, and detestyng his heresies, and now beyng in no Purgatory, but beyng a very Saint in heauen, as ye say he is: why then dyd ye burne him, whom your selues knew should be a Saint? Thus ye burne both Gods enemies, and gods Saintes too, what cruell men are you? MarginaliaThe law of relapse.
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But here you wl alledge perhaps, your law of relaps, by the which the first fall is pardonable, but the second fall into heresie, is in no

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