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1007 [1006]

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

case pardonable: for so standeth 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 the true church of Christ, and wt his word, now let vs reason. For this beyng a law, not of politicke or ciuill gouernement (where such lawes be expedient for publicke necessitie) but onely beyng a law mere Ecclesiasticall, what a cruel mother Church is this, which 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 bodyes, that their soules may be saued from the paynefull passion of Purgatory, whom neuerthelesse they know forthwith shall be blessed in heauen? If God do saue them, why do you burne them? If God do pardon them, why do you condēne them? MarginaliaThe Popes lawe disagreing from the condition of the true church of Christ. And, if this be the law of your church, accordyng to your doctrine, to burne them at the secōd tyme, though they be amended: how then doth this Church agree with the word of Christ, & nature of his true spouse, which onely seeketh the repentaunce and amendement of sinners? Which once beyng had, she gladly openeth her bosome, and motherly receaueth them, whensoeuer they returne.

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Wherfore, if Bilney did returne to your Church (as ye say he did) then was your Church a cruell mother and vnnaturall, which would not open her bosome vnto him, but thrust him into the fire when he had repēted. 

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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 example of Christ the great Byshop of our soules, (beyng compassed about with tentations, that he might haue the more compassion of them which be infirme) exhorteth all other spiritual pastours by the lyke example, saying: Hebr. 5. For euery Byshop, which is taken from among men, is ordeined for men, in thyngs perteynyng to God, to offer giftes and sacrifice for sinnes, that he may be mercyfull to the ignoraunt, and to such as erre, for so much as he himselfe is cōpassed about with infirmitie. &c. 
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Hebrews 5.1-2.

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

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Thus, although I neede not to stand longer vpon this matter, beyng so playne, and hauyng sayd inough: yet (briefly to repeate that before hath bene sayd) this I say agayne: first if Thomas Bilney was assoyled from excommunication, and after that heard his Masse so deuoutly, and at the end of the Masse, was confessed, and consequently after cōfession was housseled, and lastly asked mercy for contēnyng of the Church, as M. More doth beare vs in hand (to see now how 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 he himselfe had assoyled, and receaued to the Sacrament of penaunce before, whiche is playne agaynst the Canō law? Agayne, the sayd Thomas Bilney, if hee were nowe receaued to the mother Churche by the Sacraments 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 them which onely be incorrigible? Furthermore, the sayd Bilney, if he beyng conuerted so many dayes before (as More pretendeth) to the Catholicke fayth, 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 Monastery, 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. Thirdly, if all this were graunted, yet neither hath M. More any great aduauntage agaynst Bilney to proue hym to haue recanted: nor yet M. Cope agaynst me, which by the authoritie of M. More seeketh to beare me downe, and 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, dyd hold with the Masse, with confession, and with the authoritie of their Romish Church, beyng an humble spirited man, and yet no further brought: yet all this notwithstandyng proueth not that he recanted. MarginaliaMores consequent denyed. For so much as he neuer held nor taught any thyng before agaynst the premisses, therfore he could not recant that which he neuer did hold. For the better demonstration wherof, I will recite out of þe Registers, some part of his teaching and preaching as was obiected agaynst him by one Richard Nele, Priest: who among other witnesses deposed agaynst hym for preachyng in the towne of Wylsedone, 

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This refers to Bilney's preaching tour of 1527 (Willesden, Newington and Ipswich) in which he spoke against images. For commentary, see Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford, 1993), p. 63.

these wordes folowing:

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Marginalia[illegible text] Put away your goldē Gods, your siluer Gods, your stony Gods, and leaue your offerings, and lift vp your hartes to the Sacrament of the aultar. Also the sayd M. Bilney sayd in hys Sermon: MarginaliaBilney agaynst offeringes to Images. I know certaine thinges haue bene offered in such places, which haue bene afterward geuen to whores, of the stewes: and I call thē whores of the stewes, that be naught of their liuyng. &c. Ex Regist. 

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Foxe is quoting Guildhall Library, Register Tunstall, 9531/10, fol. 82, but also see Thomas More, 'The confutation of Tyndale's answer', ed. by Louis A Schuster, Richard C Marius and James P Lusardi, The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, viii/1-3 (New Haven, 1973), 1, pp. 22-5.

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Item, by an other witnes named W. Cade, it was deposed agaynst hym, 

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William Cade, monk of Ipswich, testified that Bilney had criticised the greed, idolatry and sexual incontinence of the monks.

thus to preache: That Iewes and Saracenes would haue become Christen men long ago, had not Idolatrie of Christen men bene, by offering of Candels, waxe, or money to the stockes, and the stones of Images set and standing in the Churches. &c.

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Item, by the sayd deponent agaynst Bilney: That the Priestes take away the offeringes, and hange them about their whores neckes: and after that, they take them agayne from the whores, if they please them not, and hange them vpon the Images: and is not that a great relicke, when it is hanged there agayne?

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Item, by the said deponent it was testified against Bilney: MarginaliaBilney against Pilgrimage. That goyng on Pilgrimage is naught, 

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Pilgrimages were one of those practices hated by evangelical reformers in that it implied that man's own actions could increase merit in degradation of the one time for all time sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

and that no man should vse it: For it were better not, and rather to tarye at home, and geue somwhat in almose, and offer your hartes, willes, and myndes to the Sacrament, MarginaliaNote here how grosse Bilney was yet in the Sacrament. and leaue your Idolatry to Saintes.

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Item, by W. Nelmys of Wylsedone, 

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Bilney had preached in the town in 1527.

that Bilney should preache: They gilde their Gods, and beare them about, and men say, they do speake: and if they do speake, it is the deuil that speaketh in them, and not God. &c.

Item, by Tho. Daly of Wilsdone, that Bilney thus preached: You come hether on pilgrimage to stockes & stones. You do naught: keepe you at home, and worship the Sacrament at home. &c.

Item, by Fryer Iohn Hogekyn, that Bilney thus preached at Ipsewych: The commyng of our Sauiour Christ was long desired, and by diuers and many Prophets prophesied, that he should come. But Iohn the Baptiste, more then a Prophet, did not onely prophesie, but wyth his finger shewed: Beholde the Lambe of God that taketh away the sinnes of the worlde. Then, if this were the very Lambe, which Iohn did demōstrate, and shewed, which taketh away the sinnes of the world, 

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John Huggen was a witness to Bilney's sermon at St George's chapel, Ipswich. Bilney had preached against salvation by works, referring to the one time for all time sacrifice of Christ on the cross and related doctrine of sola fideism. The idea being that to suggest salvation depends on any additional earned merits denigrates that original sacrifice. Bilney was arrested here.

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MarginaliaBilney agaynst false merites. what iniurie is this Bul of the Byshop of Rome to our Sauiour Iesu Christ, that to be buryed in the cowle of S. Frances, 
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This refers to the medieval practice of wrapping the dead in Franciscan cowls before burial as a means of increasing merit - See, Susan Wabuda, Preaching during the English reformation (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 108, 122-39.

should or may remitt 4. parts of penance? What is left to our Sauiour Christ,
which taketh away the sinnes of the world? This I will iustifie to be a great blasphemie agaynst the bloud of Christ. &c.

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Item, by an other Frier Iulles, that Bilney thus preached. I trust there shall and will come other beside me, the which shall shew and preache to you the same fayth, & maner of lyuing that I do: MarginaliaVid. supr. pag. [illegible text] which is the very true Gospell of our Sauiour, whereby you shall be brought from your errours, wherein you haue bene long seduced: for before this, there hath bene many, that hath sclaundered you, and the Gospell of our Sauiour Christ. Of whom speaketh our Sauiour Christ Mat. 18. Qui scandalizauerit vnum de pusillis istis qui crediderunt. &c.

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Adde moreouer to these, the testimonie of Richard Seman: that Bilney in Ipswitch should preach these words: MarginaliaBilney agaynst moe mediatours then one. Our Sauiour Christ is our Mediatour betwene vs and the father: what then should nede vs to seke to any Saint for remedy, inferiour to Christ? Wherfore to make such petition to any but to our Sauiour Christ, trusting therby to haue remedie, doth great iniurie to the bloud of Christ, and deformeth our Sauiour Christ: like as, if a man shoulde take and strike of the head, and set it vnder the foote, and to set the foote aboue.

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Thus much being partly touched before, I thought here to insinuate againe out of the Registers, touching the opinions of Thomas Bilney. 

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This is Guildhall Library, Register Tunstall, 9531/10.

Whereby may appeare the whole summe of his preaching & doctrine to proceed chiefly against Idolatrie, inuocation of Saintes, vaine worship of Images, false trust to mens merites, & such other grosse pointes of religion, as seemed preiudiciall & derogatorie to the bloud of our Sauiour Christ Iesus. As touching the Masse, & Sacrament of the aultar, as he neuer varied from himselfe, so he neuer differed therein from the most grossest Catholiques. And as concernyng his opinion of the Church of Rome, how blynde it was at that time, may sufficiently appeare by his owne aunsweres in tyme of hys abiuration, written with his owne hand in Latine, 
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There are documents which purport to be written by Bilney, for which, see PRO, SP 1/66, fols. 296-317 (or L&P, v, no. 372 (1-3).

which I haue to shew, as foloweth: Marginalia[illegible text] Credo 
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This can be found earlier, on page 1137 [Foxe, 1570 edition] and is Bilney's answer to the third objection against him.

plærasq; leges pontificias vtiles esse, necessarias, & ad pietatem quoq; plurimum promouentes, nec sacris Scripturis repugnantes, imò ab omnibus plurimum obseruandas. &c. De omnibus non possum pronunciare, vtpote quas non legi, & quas legi, nunquam in hoc legi, vt reprehenderem, sed vt discerem intelligere, ac pro

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virili
SSs.iiij.
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