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1008 [1007]

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

virili facere, & docere. De multiplicitate legum, questus est suo tempore S. Augustinus, & item Gersonus, qui miratur quomodo nos post lapsum, inter tot làquèos Constitutionū, tuti esse possimus, quum primi parentes adhuc puri, & ante lapsum, vnicum præceptum non obseruarint. &c.

Moreouer, concernyng the authoritie of the keyes, thus he writeth, aunsweryng to his. 12. Article: Soli sacerdotes ordinati ritè per pontifices, habent claues, quarum virtute ligant & soluunt Marginalia* At hæc clauis errat perpetuo. (* claue non errante) quod & facere eos non dubito, quamlibet sint peccatores. Nam Sacramentorum efficaciam non minuit, nedum tollit ministrorum indignitas, q̃diu ab Ecclesia tolerantur. &c. 

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Guildhall Library, Register Tunstall, 9531/10, fol. 137.

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By these wordes of Bilney written by him in Latine, although it may be thought how ignoraunt and grosse hee was after the rudenesse of those dayes: yet by the same notwithstandyng it may appeare, how falsely he is noted and sclaundered by M. More, and Cope my frend, to haue recanted the Articles, which he did neuer hold or mainteyne otherwise in all his life. 

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This refers 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. It was Harpsfield who raised More's conclusions about Bilney's trials and second recantation at Norwich. For comments, see G R Elton, 'Persecution and Toleration in the English Reformation', in Studies in Church History, 21 (1984), pp. 163-84 (also published in Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government: Papers and reviews 1946-1972, ed. by G R Elton (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 175-98. For More's notation of Bilney's recantation, 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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And therfore (as I sayd) though it be graunted to M. More, or in his absence, to my frende Cope, that Bilney was assoyled, was cōfessed, & housseled, before his burning, yet all this argueth not that he recanted.

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MarginaliaContrary reasons to proue that Bilney did not againe recāt. Now that I haue sufficiently (I trust) put of the reasons of M. More and of others, wherby they pretend falsely to face vs out, that Bilney the second tyme again recanted at his death: 

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The conclusion that More set out to prove that Bilney had made a second recantation is also the conclusion of Professor Guy, for which see J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), p. 170.

it remaineth on the other part, that I likewise do inferre my probations, whereby I haue to argue & conuince, that Bilney did not the second tyme recant, as he is vntruely sclaundered. And first I will begyn euen with the wordes and testimony of M. Mores owne mouth, who being Lord Chauncellour when message was sent to him, for a writte of discharge to burne Bilney, speakyng in this wise to the messengers, that came: MarginaliaMores owne wordes agaynst himselfe. Goe your wayes (sayd he) and burne hym first, and then afterward come to me for a bill of my hād. Which wordes may giue vs euidēce inough, that Bilney was not thought then to haue recanted, for thē the Lord Chauncellour would not haue bene so greedy and hasty (no doubt) to haue him dispatched. And how standeth this with M. Mores wordes now, which beareth vs in hand that he recanted many dayes before his burnyng?

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MarginaliaProued by Byshop Nixes words that Bilney did not recant at his burning. The lyke euidence we may also take by the verdict of the Bishop himselfe, that burned him: whose wordes were these. After he had burned him, and then heard tell of Doct. Shaxton: Christes mother, sayde he (that was his othe) I feare I haue burnt Abell, and let Cain go. &c. 

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In a sermon of 1531 (Ash Wednesday) Shaxton preached a sermon in which he suggested that while it was permissible to doubt purgatory it was illicit to give voice to these doubts, after which he was carefully watched. For discussion, see Alec Ryrie, The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation (Cambridge, 2003), p. 72; Peter Marshall, Religious Identities In Henry VIII's England (Aldershot, 2006), p. 173; Susan Wabuda, 'Shaxton, Nicholas (c.1485-1556)', ODNB (2004).

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As who would say: I had thought before, that I had punished Cain, and let Abell go: but now I feare I haue burnt Abell, and let Cain escape. Wherby it is playne to vnderstand, what was the Byshops iudgement of Bilney, before his burnyng: that is, that he was a Cain and the other an Abell. But after the burnyng of Bilney, the Byshop hearing now of Shaxton, turneth his iudgemēt, and correcteth him selfe, swearyng now the contrary: that is, lest he had burned Abell, and let Cain go.

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Furthermore, where the Byshop feared, in burning Bilney, that he had burned Abell, what doth this feare of the byshop import, but a doubtyng of his mynde vncertaine? For who feareth that wherof he is sure? Wherefore þe case is playne, that Bilney at his burnyng did not recant, as More reporteth: For then the Byshop knowyng Bilney to dye a Catholicke conuert, & a true member of the church, would not haue feared, nor doubted, but would haue constantly affirmed Bilney to haue dyed a true Abell in dede. And to conclude this matter, MarginaliaCain burneth Abell. if Bilney dyed an Abell, then the Bishop by his owne confession, must needes proue himselfe to be a Cain, which slue him. What more clearer probation could we bryng, if there were a thousand? Or what neede we any other, hauyng this alone?

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MarginaliaTestimonies prouing that M. Bilney did not recant at his death. Now for testimonie and witnesse of this matter, to be produced, for somuch as M. More allegeth none to proue that Bilney at his death, did recant: I will assay what testimonie I haue on the contrary side, to auouche and proue that Bilney dyd not recant.

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MarginaliaWitnes for Bilney. And for somuch as Bilney was a Cambrige man, 

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Bilney was a fellow of Trinity Hall (canon and civil law) and, famously, a member of the Little Germany discussion group at the White Horse tavern.

and the first framer of that Vniuersitie in the knowledge of Christ, and was burned at Norwich, beyng not very farre distant from Cambrige: there is no doubt, but among so many frendes as hee had in that Vniuersitie, some went thether to heare, and see hym. Of whom one was Tho. Alen felow thē of Penbroke Hall, who returnyng the same tyme, from Bilneys burnyng, declared to MarginaliaDoct. Turner Deane of Welles. Doct. Turner, Deane of Welles, being yet alyue (a man whose authoritie neither is to be neglected, nor credite to be distrusted) that the sayd Bilney tooke his death most paciently, and suffered most constantly, without any recantation, for the doctrine which he before had professed.

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MarginaliaAn other witnes for Bilney. In the Citie of Norwich Necton, and many other be now departed, which were then present at the burnyng of Bilney: neuerthelesse some be yet alyue, whose witnesses, if neede were, I could fetch with a litle labour, and will (God willyng) as tyme shall require. In the meane tyme, at the writyng hereof, here was one Thom. Russell, a right honest occupyer, and a Citizen of Norwich, who likewise beyng there present on horsebacke at the execution of this godly man beholdyng all thynges that were done, did neither heare hym recant any worde, nor yet heard of hys recantation.

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MarginaliaAn other witnes for Bilney. I could also adde hereunto the testimonie of an other, beyng brother to the Archbyshop of Caunterbury, named M. Baker, a man yet a lyue, who beyng the same tyme present at the examination of Bilney, both heard hym, and saw him, when as a certaine Frier called him hereticke. Wherunto Bilney replying agayne, made aunswere: if I be an hereticke (sayd he) then are you an Antichrist, who of late haue buried a certaine Gentlewoman wt you, in S. Fraunces coule, assuryng her to haue saluation thereby. Whiche facte, although the Frier the same tyme did denye, yet this cā not be denyed, but Bilney spake these wordes: whereby he may easely be iudged to be farre from the mynde of any recātation: accordyng as by the sayd Gentleman, it is also testified, that after that, he neuer heard of any recantation that Bilney either ment or made.

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If I should recite all, which here might be brought, I might sooner lacke rowme in my booke to conteine them, then names enough to fill vp a grand iurye. But what neede I to spent tyme about witnes, when one M. Latymer may stand for a thousand, MarginaliaOne Martyr witnes for an other Martyr. one Martyr to beare witnes to an other? And though my frend Cope, pressyng me with the authoritie of M More, sayth, that he will beleue hym before me: yet I trust, he will not refuse to credite this so auncient a Senior, father Latimer, beyng both in Bilneys time, and also by Bilney conuerted, and familiarly with him acquainted: who beyng the same tyme at Cābridge, I suppose would inquire as much, and could know more of this matter, then maister More. MarginaliaThe testimonie of M. Latimer cōcerning Maister Bilney. Touchyng the testimoniall of which Latymer, I haue noted before, how he in. ij. sondrye places in his Sermōs, 

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Bilney is mentioned a few times in Latimer's sermons, for example, as 'little Bilney, that blessed martyr of God' in his Seventh sermon before Edward the sixth (1549), or simply as 'master Bilney', as in the Last sermon before Edward the sixth (1550). For these references, see Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), 1, pp. 222 and 251 respectively. Other references can be found in volume one (pp. 334, 336, 343) and in volume two (p. 51).

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hath testified of good Bilney, of that blessed Bilney, of Saint Bilney, how he dyed paciently agaynst the tyrannicall Sea of Rome. &c. And in an other Sermon also, how the sayd Bilney suffered his body to be burned for the Gospels sake. &c. Item, in an other place, how the sayd Bilney suffred death 
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Foxe may be referring to Latimer's Seventh sermon before Edward the sixth (1549) in which the former bishop talks about his old friend Bilney and his martyr's death. [See, Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, C.U.P., 1844), i, p. 222].

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for Gods wordes sake. MarginaliaVid. pag. 1146. vid. pag. 981.

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I may be thought perhaps of some, to haue stayd to lōg about the discourse of this matter. But the cause that moued, and halfe constrayned me thereunto, was Syr Tho. More, sometymes Lord Chauncellour of England, & now a great Archpiller of all our English Papistes, a man otherwise of a pregnaunt witte, full of pleasaunt conceites, also for his learnyng aboue the common sort of his estate, esteemed industrious, no lesse in his studyes, then well exercised in his penne. Who, if he had kept himselfe within hys owne shoppe, and applied the facultie, being a lay man, wherunto hee was called, and had not ouer reached himselfe to proue mastries in such matters, wherein he had litle skill, lesse experience, and which perteined not to his profession, he had deserued, not onely much more commendation, but also a longer lyfe. 

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For a useful discussion of More's unorthodox involvement in the Bilney case, and Bilney's trials and tribulations, see J A Guy, The public career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 167-71 and John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24/4 (December 1981), pp. 775-90].

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But for somuch as he, not contented with hys own vocation, hath with Oza 
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This refers to a man named Uzzah, who with all good intentions, touched the ark of the covenant to steady it when the oxen pulling the cart upon which it was placed stumbled, threatening to upset the cart. As this was a direct violation of divine law (despite his good intentions) he was killed instantly through the contact. This story can be found in 1 Chronicles 13.11-3 and is a lesson in meddling where you do not belong.

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reached out his vnmeete hād to medle with Gods Arkematters, wherein hee had little cunnyng, and while he thinketh to helpe religion, destroyeth religion, and is an vtter enemy to Christ, and to his spirituall doctrine, and his poore afflicted Church, to the intent therfore that he beyng taken for a speciall ryngleader, and a chief stay in the Popes Church, might the better be knowē what he is, and that the ignoraunt and simple may see, what litle credite is to be giuē vnto him, as well in his other false facyng out of matters, as namely in this present history of Bilneys recantation: I haue diligently searched out & procured the true certificate of M. Bilneys burnyng, with all the circumstauncies, and pointes thereto belongyng, testified not by somesayes and by hearesayes (as M More vseth) MarginaliaDoct.Parker Archb. of Canterbury present witnes at the burnyng of Bilney. but truly witnessed, & faythfully recorded by one, who as in place and degree surmounteth the estate of M. More (though he were Lord Chauncellour) so beyng also both a spirituall person, and there present the same tyme, commyng for the same purpose the day before, to see his burnyng, was a present beholder of thynges there done, xxx, xxx xxx of Martyrdome, whose credite I am sure wil coūterpease with the credite of M. More. The order of which Martyrdome was this, as foloweth.

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Thomas Bilney, after his examination and condemnation before Doct. Pelles Doctour of law and Chaūcellour, 

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Thomas Pelles is identified by Professor Guy as a 'hard-core' conservative member of lower convocation who supported Catherine (in the divorce matter) as part of an Aragonese faction. As chancellor of Norwich diocese he had examined Bilney's opinions. He claimed after Bilney's execution that he had handed the martyr a draft revocation which Bilney read out. Pelles was arrested in 1531 for praemunire violations. See J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 142, 167 and 176].

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first was degraded by Suffragan Vnderwoode, accordyng to the custome of their Popish maner, by the assistaunce of

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