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1029 [1028]

K. Hen. 8. John Fryth, of the Sacrament.

his frendes: so that at the last, being trayterously taken 

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This would be October 1532. Frith appears to have been preaching at Bow Lane.

(as ye shall after heare) he was sente vnto the Tower of London, wheras he had many conflictes with the bishops, but specially in writyng with Syr Thomas Moore. 
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Foxe does not go into the chain of events very deeply at this point which is unfortunate as the events are quite interesting. Simon Fish, in exile in Antwerp in 1529, had written a vehemently anti-clerical short pamphlet entitled Supplication of the Beggars in which he disputed the existence of purgatory (from a 'sola scriptura' perspective) and, consequently, the validity of papal indulgences as he construes them to be. He also made the argument that the clergy had usurped certain temporal powers. Such an argument as this was, of course, calculated to appeal to a king who was, at the time, vying with papal obstructionism over his effort to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In October 1529, Thomas More responded to the pamphlet with his The Supplycatyon of Soulys (in two books) defending the doctrine of purgatory with all the wit and logic at his command. It was on this point of purgatorial doctrine that Frith comes into the picture, determined to undertake an answer to More's book on Fish's behalf and in defence of his anti-purgatorial theology.

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MarginaliaThe occasion of Frythes wryting against More The first occasion of his writyng was this: 
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Frith had published two books in 1529. One of these was entitled Patrick's Places - the translation of a short treatise of the Scottish reformer, Patrick Hamilton, covering such issues as law, gospel, charity and good works. The other work of that year was the much more important The Revelation of Antichrist written under the pseudonym Richard Brightwell. This treatise consists of an introductory letter and three sections dedicated to doctrine, of which only the first section - 'An Epistle unto the Christian Reader' - is original. The other two sections - 'The Revelation of Antichrist' and 'Antithesis between Christ and the Pope' - are respectively translations of Luther's Concerning Antichrist (1521) and Melanchthon's Suffering of Christ and Antichrist (1521). Frith, in this way, presented the doctrine of 'sola fide' to the English reading public. In 1531, while still in exile, Frith wrote two considerable more original treatises. The lesser of the two is a commentary on the last will of the executed heretic William Tracy, entitled Tracy's Testament. The greater work - entitled A disputation of Purgatory - is an attack on the traditional Catholic orthodoxy as presented in three other recent English works. These are John Rastell's rationalist account New Book of Purgatory (1530), Thomas More's scriptural account The Supplycatyon of Soulys (1529) and Bishop John Fisher's patristic account Confutation of Lutheran Assertions (1523). These are discussed in Carl R Trueman, Luther's Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525-1556 (Oxford, 1994), pp.121-56.

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Vppon a tyme he had communication with a certaine olde familiar freende of his, touching the Sacrament of the body & bloud of Christ. The whole effect of whiche disputation, consisted specially in these foure poyntes.

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1 FIrst, that the matter of the Sacrament is no necessarye article of faith vnder paine of damnation.

2 Secondly, that for so muche as Christes naturall bodye in like condition hath all properties of our bodye, sinne onely except, it can not be, neyther is it agreable vnto reason, that he should be in two places or moe at once, contrary to the nature of our body.

3 Moreouer it shall not seeme meete or necessarye, that we shoulde in this place vnderstande Christes wordes, according to the literall sense, but rather according to the order and phrase of speache, comparing phrase with phrase, according to the Analogie of the scripture.

4 Last of all, howe that it ought to be receiued accordyng to the true and right institution of Christ, albeit that the order whiche at this tyme is crept into the Churche, & is vsed nowe a dayes by the priestes, do neuer so much differ from it. 

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According to William Gordon (referencing the work of Germain Marc'hadour) there was another Frith work, a short, preliminary draft to his larger Tower work (Quid veteres senserint de sacramento eucharistiae (A Book Answering More's Letter) on the doctrine of the Eucharist, entitled A christen sentenceand true iudgement of the moste honorable Sacrament of Christes body and bloude declared both by the auctorite of the ho1y Scriptures and the auncient Doctores (STC-5190) - subsequently used by Tyndale. See, Germain Marc'hadour, Thomas More et la Bible (Paris, 1969), p.298 and Walter M Gordon, 'A Scholastic Problem in Thomas More's Controversy with John Frith', in The Harvard Theological Review 69:1/2 (January - April, 1976), pp.131-149. The influence of Oecolampadius and the figurative interpretation of the key biblical texts on the real presence in the Eucharist is clear from this treatise. Here Foxe extracts the four main points of Frith's doctrine. In essence, Frith wrote that interpretation of the presence was adiaphoric with regards to salvation, that the ubiquity theory of many medieval thinkers (and Luther) was unreasonable, that the text of Matthew 26.36 should be given an analogical rather than literal reading, and that the Mass ceremonial itself also needs to be brought more in line with Christ's own words. Frith made use of two works of Oecolampadius, De genuine verborum Domini, "hoc est corpus meum" juxta vetustissimos autores expositione (1525) and Dialogus quo patrum sententiam de coena Domini bonafide explanat (1530). [For discussion of these works see, William A Clebsch, England's Earliest Protestants (New Haven, 1964), p.126]. That Frith had been influenced by Oecolampadius was no secret to Thomas Cranmer who, after his interrogation of Frith in the Tower, wrote that Frith's doctrine was 'most after the opinion of Oecolampadius' - see Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, ed. J E Cox (Cambridge, 1846), letter no.xiv, p.246. It was against this shorter tract that More wrote his Letter Against Frith (which can be found in volume seven of the Yale edition of More's works), which Frith answered in his larger treatise which was not answered before his execution. More's The answere to the first parte of the poysened booke whych a namelesse heretyke hath named the souper of the lorde was published in 1534 (which can be found in volume eleven of the Yale edition). Frith became the first English theologian to address the Eucharist related issues of presence and efficacy of the Mass (and which Cranmer later incorporated into 1552 edition of the Book of Common Prayer).

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And for so muche as the treatise of this disputation seemed somewhat long, his freende desired hym that suche thinges as he had reasoned vppon, he woulde briefely commyt vnto writyng and geue vnto hym for the helpe of his memorie. MarginaliaThe occasion of Frithes writyng vpon the sacrament. Frith, albeit he was vnwillyng, and not ignoraunt howe daungerous a thyng it was to enter into such a contentious matter, at the last notwithstanding he beyng ouercome by the intreatie of his freende, rather folowed his wyl, then looked to his owne safegard.

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MarginaliaWilliam Holte, a Iudaz. There was at that time in London a Taylour named William Holt, 

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Holt, seemingly a part of More's spy network, was the foreman of the shop of one Mr Malte, tailor to the king.

which fainyng a great frendship toward this partie, instantly required of him to geue hym licence to reade ouer that same writing of Frithes, whiche when he vnaduisedly dyd, the other by and by caryed it vnto MarginaliaSyr Tho. More Chaūceler. More being then Chauncelour, which thing afterward was occasion of great trouble, and also of death vnto the saide Frith. For More hauing gotten a copie of this booke, not onely of this Sicophant, but also two other copies, whiche at the same time, in a maner were sent hym by other promoters, he whetted his wyts, & called his spirits together as much as he might, meaning to refute his opinion by a cōtrary booke. 
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This refers to the earlier More treatise Letter Against Frith.

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MarginaliaThe summe of Frythes booke of the sacrament. This in a maner was the whole summe of the reasons of Frithes booke: First to declare the Popes beliefe of the Sacrament, to be no necessary article of our fayth 

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Frith held the sacrament of the eucharist as adiaphora or of no specific salvation value.

, that is to say, MarginaliaThe not beleuing the corporall presence of Christ in the sacrament, is no damnation. that it is no article of our fayth necessary to be beleued vnder paine of damnation that the Sacrament shoulde be the natural body of Christ. Whiche he thus proueth: For many so beleue, and yet in so beleuyng the Sacrament to be the naturall body, are not therby saued, but receiue it to their damnation.

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Againe, in beleuyng the Sacrament to be the naturall body, yet that naturall presence of his bodye in the bread, is not that whiche saueth vs, but his presence in our hartes by fayth. And likewise the not beleuyng of his bodyly presence in the Sacrament, is not the thyng that shall damne vs: but þe absence of him out of our hart, through vnbelef. And if it be obiected, that it is necessary to beleue gods woorde vnder payne of damnation: to that he aunsweareth, that the woorde taken in the right sense as Christe meant, mainteineth no such bodyly presence as the Popes church doth teache, but rather a Sacramentall presence. And that (saith he) may be further confirmed thus. 

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This is very similar to the theology of Zwingli, Oecolampadius and Martin Bucer, who developed the idea that non-believers eat to their own damnation in 1528 - see Martin Bucer, Conciliation between Dr Luther and His opponents regarding Christ's Supper. Zwingli would also make much of the idea of sacramental eating in his Fidei confessio (or Account of the faith), published in 1530.

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MarginaliaCc. None of the olde fathers before Christes incarnation, were bound vnder paine of damnatiō to beleue this poynt:

Marginaliala. All we be saued by the same fayth that the olde fathers were:

Marginaliarent. Ergo, none of vs are bounde to beleue this poynt vnder paine of damnation.

The firste parte (saith he) is euident of it selfe. For howe coulde they beleue that whiche they neuer hearde nor sawe?

The seconde part (saith he) appeareth plainly by MarginaliaAugust. ad Dardanm. saint Augustine wryting ad Dardanum, and also by an hundreth places more. 

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Much of this is repeated from the 1563 edition, except here Foxe adds the relevant biblical quotes in the margins: I Corinthians 10:1-4; Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 26:4.

Neither is there any thing that he doth more often inculcate thē this, that þe same fayth þt saued our Fathers, saueth vs also. And therefore vpon the truth of these two parts thus proued, must the cōclusion (saith he) needes followe.

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An other Argument.

None of þe olde fathers before Christes incarnation, did eate Christ corporally in their signes, but onely mystically & spiritually, and were saued:

All we do eate Christ euen as they dyd, and are saued as they were:

Ergo, none of vs do eate Christe corporally, but mystically and spiritually in our signes as they did.

For the probation of the first part, Frith proceeding in his discourse, declareth howe the auncient fathers before Christes Incarnation, dyd neuer beleue any such poynt of this grosse and carnall eating of Christes bodye: and yet notwithstanding they dyd eate hym spiritually, and were saued: as Adam, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Phinees, and other godly Israelites besides. All whiche (saith he) dyd eate the body of Christ, and dyd drinke his bloud, as we do. But this eatyng and drinking of theirs was spiritual, perteinyng onely to fayth, and not to the teeth: For they were all vnder the cloude, and dranke of the rocke which folowed them, this rocke was Christ, Marginalia1. Cor. 10. which was promised thē to come into þe world. And this promise was first made vnto Adā, whē as it was said vnto þe Serpent: I wyll put hatred betwene thee and the woman, betwene her seede and thy seede. &c. MarginaliaGen. 30. And afterward againe vnto Abraham: In thy seede shal al people be blessed. &c. 

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References are to I Corinthians 10:1-4; Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 26:4.

MarginaliaGen 26. Adding also the Sacrament of Circumcision, which was called the couenaunt, MarginaliaBread is called the bodye, as the sacrament of circumcision is called the couenant. not because it was so in deede, but because it was a signe and token of þe couenant made betwene God & Abraham, admonishing vs therby how we should iudge & thinke touching the sacrament of his body & bloud: to wyt, that albeit it be called the body of Christ, yet we should properly vnderstand therby þe fruit of our iustification, which plentifully floweth vnto al faythful by his most healthful body & bloud. Likewise the same promise was made vnto Moses the moste meeke & gentle captaine of the Israelites, which dyd not only hym self beleue vpō Christ, which was so often promised, but also dyd prefigurate hym by diuers meanes, MarginaliaManna, a figure of Christes body.
The water of the rocke a figure of Christes body.
both by þe Manna whiche came downe from heauen, and also by the water which issued out of the rocke, for the refreshing of the bodyes of his people.

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Neither is it to be doubted, but that both Manna and this water had a Propheticall mysterie in them, MarginaliaBread & wine, a figure likewise of Christes body declaring the very selfe same thing then, whiche the bread & the wine do now declare vnto vs in þe sacrament. For thus saith S. Augustine: Who so euer dyd vnderstand Christ in the manna, dyd eate the same spirituall foode that we do. But they which by that Manna sought onely to fil their bellyes, dyd eate therof, and are dead. So likewise saith he of þe drinke: For the rocke was Christ. Marginalia1. Cor. 10. And by and by after he inferreth thus: Moses dyd eate Manna and Phinees also, and many other also dyd eate thereof, which pleased God & are not dead. Why? because they dyd vnderstand the visible meate spiritually. They did spiritually hunger, and did spiritually taste of it, that they might spiritually be satisfied. MarginaliaThe olde fathers dyd eate the same spirituall foode that we doe, but not the same corporal foode. For they dyd eate Christ in Māna, we do eate him in bread. They all did eat the same spiritual meat, & al did drinke the same spiritual drinke: al one spiritual thing, but not al one corporall matter (for they dyd eate Manna, & we an other thing) but the selfe same spiritual thing that we do, and although they dranke the same spiritual drinke that we do yet they dranke one thing, and we an other: which neuertheles signified all one thing in spirituall effecte. Howe did they drink al one thing? The apostle answereth: Of the spirituall rocke which folowed them, for the rocke was Christ. MarginaliaBede. And Bede also adding these wordes, sayth: Behold the signes are altered and yet the fayth remayneth one. Therby a man may perceiue that the Manna, whiche came downe from heauen, was the same vnto them, that our Sacrament is vnto vs, and that by eyther of them is signified that the bodye of Christe came downe from heauen, and yet notwithstandyng neuer any of them sayde that Manna was the verye bodye of Messias, as our Sacramentall bread is not in deede the body of Christ, but a mystical representation of þe same. MarginaliaA similitude betwene Manna & the body of Christ. For like as the Manna which came down frō heauen, and the bread whiche is receiued in the Supper, dooth nourish the body, euen so the body of Christ comming down from heauen and beyng geuen for vs, dooth quicken vp the spirites of the beleuers vnto life euerlasting. Then if the saluation of both people be alike, and their faith also one, there is no cause why we shoulde adde transubstantiation vnto our sacrament, more then they beleued their Manna to be altered & chaunged. Moreouer, for because they are named sacraments euen by the signification of the name, they must needes be signes of things, or els of necessitie they can be no Sacraments.

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