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During those sufferings, they presented numerous petitions to the authorities, that they might be brought to trial, or have some Christian conference, or obtain bail, and be released from prison; but their cries and groans were unavailing: no one listened to their heart-rending supplications. Their principles were not only misunderstood, but loaded with grievous aspersions and slanderous misrepresentations ; therefore, in these painful circumstances, they presented the following petition, “To the Right Honourable the lords and others of her Majesty's most honourable privy council :"
“Right Honourable. Though our extreme calamities, by sickness, wants, griefs, and troubles, in noisome and irksome prison, would urge us to a large discourse, yet we acknowledge your manifold affairs in the commonwealth enjoin us to brevity. Therefore we most humbly beseech your honours at this time, to read and consider of a very short declaration of our loyalty; two brief answers to certain rumours; and one petition concerning our present state. And as your honours find our petition reasonable, our answers Christian, and our loyalty entire to our sovereign prince ; so we intreat you for God's sake to be a means to release us, especially those who are known to be in extreme distress by sickness and want.
“A brief declaration of our faith.
“1. We fully acknowledge our duty to obey and practise within our calling the laws of Christ Jesus, our heavenly king, in and above all things, worshipping him, according to the rules of Christ's Testament; because the same are perpetual, immutable, most holy, just, and wise, only thought meet in his wisdom for all times, places, and persons; and, therefore, upon pain of damnation to be embraced of all men,
“2. We fully acknowledge her majesty's title to the crown by right of descent from the undoubted kings of this realm, her most royal progenitors.
“ 3. We fully acknowledge her majesty's supreme government in magistracy over all persons and causes within her highness's dominions, within the church and without.
"4. We fully acknowledge our duties to pray for the preservation of her royal person, and that they are negligent who forget this duty; that they are not Christ's who contemn it; and that they are traitors who deny it.
“5. We fully acknowledge our duties to yield the half or whole of all our lands and goods, towards the maintenance of her princely estate, or other benefit of our country; whether by way of benevolence, subsidies, taxings, or such like, without grudging, being by due order enacted.
“6. We fully acknowledge our duties to obey the laws or statutes of this land, so far forth as they are agreeable to Christ's, and patiently to suffer for not obeying those, which we either rightly take, or, as men may err, do mistake, to be contrary to his, without the thought of making new, or altering old ones, how unequal soever they are; which thing no subject, we say, hath any warrant to do.
“7. We fully acknowledge our duties to obey all Christians, civil officers, or the heathen, if we were under their government, from the prince on the throne to the meanest office, as constable or any other.
“8. We fully acknowledge our duties to be ready at all times with our bodies, to be employed, in peace or war, at home or abroad, in any service for God's glory, and our queen and conntry's safety.
"9. We fully acknowledge our duties to yield our members and lives to what manner, prison, punishment, or death soever, whether justly or wrongfully inflicted, rather than resist the higher powers.
“10. We fully acknowledge our duties to do good to all men, as becometh Chris
tians. Therefore, touching our whole country, even the most ignorant, wilful, obstinate, and wicked, thus we say : whatsoever knowledge, good name, health, wealth, joy in this world, or in the world to come, we wish ourselves, let us never enjoy any of these, if we wish not the same to as many of them who fear God, love their prince and country, and obey her majesty and her laws in such manner as we have described. Unto the rest we pray and wish for repentance and amendment of life.
“The answers to two rumours against us.
“The rumour goeth, that we differ from all the land in some opinions, gainsaying not only the bishops and whole clergy, but magistrates and the whole land ; and therefore, no prison is too vile, nor any punishment too grievous or too long for us.
" Right Honourable. The magistrates we reverence in thought, word, and deed. For the other this consequence is very hard and unmerciful. Blessed be God, who hath not made the multitude our judges, nor our prince a child. We dissent, indeed, from all our nation in some doctrines concerning the true worship, offices, officers, and government of God in his church; but seeing we have thus laid open our faith and loyalty to God, our prince, and our country, is there no more favour and mercy due unto us, than to languish away in prisons without bail or trial; which kind of persecution is more grievous than death itself. The ancient fathers have much differed in their judgment. The most learned and famous men in England differ in judgment. But no heresy nor schism is proved; where love and loyalty remain, where wickedness is rather hated and reproved than committed, God forbid that more grievous punishment should be inflicted upon such a people, than upon any manner of malefactors, traitors, idolaters, papists, heretics, adulterers, liars, swearers, and such like.
" But the rumour goeth, that we are heretics and schismatics, holding most ungodly opinions.
" Right Honourable. This rumour is false. In error it may be we are ; for we confess ourselves to be sinful men ; yea, daily we sin. And what man, whether you look to the first man, Adam, or to the patriarchs, prophets, or apostles, or to the most learned and holy of the former, later, or present age; what man, say we, except the man Christ, but hath erred and may err. Therefore, as men, we also may fail in judgment. But heretics or schismatics none can prove us. If they could, it were their fault to suffer us so many years to remain in so many places of the realm unconvinced ; especially as we continually desire an equal trial. For which cause we pine away with astonishment and grief, that no more pitiful order is taken with such a people, but one after another to be thrust into the vilest gaols, as Newgate, Whitelion, &c., amongst the most vagrant rogues, the most infectious and lewd wretches in all the nation. The Lord our God open the ears and eyes of you, the civil magistrates, to hear and see our miseries, and some way to relieve us : that He also may remember you in the day of distress, sickness, and death, which is the way of all flesh. Amen.
"In tender consideration of all the premises, our lamentable and humble petition unto your honours, is, even for God's cause, as you regard the lives of her majesty's faithful subjects, that you will be a means to obtain for us so much favour as to have equal trial of the matters in question : which thing was never so long delayed in this realm (for ought we read) to the veriest papist and heretic that ever were; or else that all who are bailable by law, may be bailed from these noisome prisons and gaols this spring time, till the latter end of next summer, upon sufficient security to answer unto whatever shall be objected against us. This petition we make wholly for those whose bodies are in present danger of death, by grievous sickness and want, or else distressed by long confinement. We desire it for us all, to this end, that we may labour in our avocations, or at least have an eye to our families, thereby to guide them better than they can now be governed : who, by reason of our long absence from them, may soon fall into some of those heinous crimes, whereof we or they are now
most unjustly slandered. For what is youth without government? And what government can there be in those houses, whose masters are constantly prisoners, whose dames are constantly suitors; and whose shop-windows are always shut ?
“Right Honourable. We are persuaded that no chronicles, or records, or books of monuments do show a denial of both these requests to any sort or sect, who might be drawn or persuaded to yield such obedience as our declaration doth manifest : but we have been and are willing to subscribe to those points of our own accord. The greatest supposed heretics in Queen Mary's days, and the vilest malefactors nowdays, have had, and still have, lawful examining, committing, and trial and gaol deli. verance, within a short space appointed by Statute, which some of us can prove we have not had, nor can have. And shall a people who are found and confessed to be the most contrary in judgment, and greatest enemies to the pope's supremacy, the seminaries, and all the brood of that apostate throne, with all their trumperies, and to the king of Spain and all his treacheries, be as hardly or more cruelly dealt with than any popish recusants, and that in Queen Elizabeth's days? We cease to argue with our betters ; yet in all humility and reverence to your persons and places, we are enforced to stir up your affections by humble petition thus earnestly; because through the last commission about Jesuits, seminaries, and priests, and such as take part with the pope and Spanish king, we also are sought after, imprisoned, and indicted, as if we were such. Indeed, Right Honourable, both we and they do refuse to come to the parish assemblies; but with what difference in faith towards God and loyalty to our prince, our declaration showeth.
“Now, Right Honourable, if we should set forth at large a manifestation of the particular handling of most of us since her majesty's reign, namely, when we were committed, by whom, how examined, how many committed and kept close without warrant ; how long after kept in prison by warrants without any cause showed; how many years some have been thus detained, without accusation by witnesses, or any public trial; how many suits and petitions utterly refused or neglected; how many proffers of bail rejected ; what usage we have had by keepers and gaolers; how many have died in prisons, and such like things; we might bring open to view such proceedings of the bishops, and such as they stir up hereunto, contrary to all law and conscience, as we hope would make our merciful queen and her godly magistrates' hearts to pity us, when they should but hear or see that which we have known and felt. How long shall we desire to have peace with all men, if it were possible? How long shall our fear of being thought malicious, contentious, and seekers of revenge, cause us to keep silence, and not make such a grievous complaint as this would be, but not seek, by all lawful means, to obtain such a speedy redress as this would ask? Would to God that you knew the truth of those things which we have suffered, then, do doubt, you would pity our lamentable case. In consideration whereof, and of all our long imprisonments and great miseries, we humbly entreat for justice, according to her majesty's laws, which thing, we trust, will not be denied us ; seeing we desire nothing, touching the liberty of our bodies or minds, but what the laws of God and our queen do allow, and have provided for us, though we could not write for ourselves, nor any sergeant, counsel, or attorney, ever yet durst, or would, plead our poor and lamentable cause! For which mercy and justice showed, we shall be bound to pray to God, our heavenly Father, that he will multiply her majesty's years, if such be his will, with more and more blessings; and yours with honour added to honour ; and establish unity in true religion, and peace of conscience amongst them who profess the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."*
* Lansdowne MSS. vol. cix. No. 14.
Upwards of sixty prisoners presented another petition to the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, earnestly soliciting the grant of speedy trial, or some Christian conference, or to be bailed according to law, or their cause moved to her majesty's privy council ; after which, they stated their case in the following language :
"May it please your lordship to understand, that we, her majesty's loyal, dutiful, and true-hearted subjects, to the number of threescore persons and upwards, have, contrary to all law and equity, been imprisoned, separated from our trades, wives, children, and families ; yea, shut up close prisoners from all comfort; many of us the space of two years and a half, upon the bishop's sole commandment, in great penury, and noisome prisons; many ending their lives, never called to trial ; some haled forth to the sessions; some put in irons and dungeons; some in hunger and famine; all of them debarred from any lawful audience before our honourable governors and magistrates, and from all help and benefit of the laws; daily defamed and falsely accused by published pamphlets, private suggestions, open preaching, slanders, and accusations of heresy, sedition, schism, and what not ;-and, above all, which most toucheth our salvation, they keep us from all spiritual edification and comfort, by doctrine, prayer, or mutual conference. Seeing, for our consciences only we are treated thus, we most humbly beseech your lordship, that some more mitigated and peaceable course might be taken ; that some free and Christian conference, publicly or privately, before your honour, or before whom it shall please you, where our adversaries may not be our judges; but our course, with the reason and proof on both sides, might be recorded by indifferent notaries and faithful witnesses; and, if any thing be found in us worthy of death or of bonds, let us be made an example to all posterity; if not, we entreat for some compassion to be shown in equity, according to law, for our relief. That in the mean time we may be bailed, to do her majesty service; walk in our callings, provide things needful for ourselves, our poor wives, and disconsolate children and families relying upon us; or that we might be prisoners together in Bridewell, or any other convenient place at your honour's appointment, where we might provide such relief by our diligence and labours as might preserve life, to the comfort both of our souls and bodies. And if your honour will not of yourself grant us this suit, we most humbly entreat your honour to make the rest of her majesty's most honourable privy council acquainted with our distressed state, and together grant us some present redress."*
The prisoners having made this application to the lord treasurer, also presented another humble supplication to the lords of the council, in which they furnish an affecting detail of their sufferings, which they ascribed to the prelates, addressing their lordships in the following moving language :
"The only adversaries who feel offended at our principles are the officers of antichrist's kingdom, the Romish prelacy and priesthood left in this land. Their dealings with us are, and have been a long time, most injurious, outrageous, and unlawful, by the great power and high authority they have got into their hands, and usurped above all public courts, judges, laws, and charters of this land ; persecuting, imprisoning, detaining at their pleasures our poor bodies, without any trial, release, or bail, as yet permitted ; and, hitherto, without any cause of error or crime, directly objected : and some of us they have confined no more than five years in prison; yea, four of these five years in close prison, with miserable usage, as Henry Barrow and John Greenwood at this present time in the Fleet. Others they have cast into their limbo of Newgate,
* Lansdowne MSS. vol. cix. No. 15. N. S. VOL. v.
laden with as many irons as they could bear; others into the dangerous and loathsome jail, among the most facinorous and vile persons; where it is lamentable to relate how many of these innocent persons have perished within these five years. And of these, some are aged widows, aged men, and young maidens ; where so many as the infection hath spared shall lie in woeful distress, and are likely to follow their fellows, if speedy redress be not granted. Others of us have been grievously beaten with cudgels, in the prison of Bridewell, and there cast into a place called little ease, for refusing to attend the church service; in which prison they and others, not long after, ended their lives.
“They have defamed us as anabaptists, but are not able to charge us with any one of their errors ; as Donatists, as schismatics, though we have Christian communion with all who hold and walk in the Christian faith ; as seditious and covenant breakers, though they drive us to these secret meetings; as abridgers of, and encroachers upon, the royal power of the queen, though we from our hearts acknowledge her sovereign power, under God, over all persons, causes, and actions, civil or ecclesiastical; though we gladly obey, and never willingly break, any of her godly laws; and though we never attempted, secretly or openly, to suppress or innovate any thing, however enormous, by public authority established, patiently suffering whatsoever the arm of justice might inflict upon us. We only do such things as Christ hath commanded us in his holy worship, and always leave the reformation of the state to those whom God has set to govern the state; yet are we all accused as pernicious to the state and public peace of the land, though we aim at nothing but the pure worship of God, and sincere obedience to the law of our Lord Jesus Christ, within the limits of our calling. They untruly suggest, that we, by our opinions and proceedings, utterly cut off and condemn her most gracious majesty, your honours, and all others not of our mind, as infidels and reprobates; wherein they much wrong your honours and us. God knoweth our reverend judgment, loyal hearts, and entire love to you all ; how we seek, desire, and hope for your salvation as our own.
“But, right honourable, this dealing cannot for ever uphold their ruinous kingdom, or keep your honourable wisdoms from the sight and search of God's truth in these matters; which, if it may please your honours to permit to be tried, cannot any longer be hid. We can only in all humble manner beseech, offer, and commit our cause and proceeding to be tried by the Scriptures of God, with any of the contrary judgment, before your honourable presence: where we confidently undertake, both to disprove their public ministry, ministration, worship, government, and proceedings ecclesiastical established in this land, and to approve our present course and practice by such evidence of Scripture, as our adversaries shall not be able to withstand; protesting, if we fail herein, not only willingly to sustain such deserved punishment as shall be inflicted upon us for our disorder and temerity, but also become conform able to their way and proceedings, if we overthrow not them; we will not say, if they overcome us. Neither may your honours without great charge deny, or any longer defer, this Christian and peaceful course, prescribed and commanded of God in such causes ; seeing it tendeth to the appeasing and ending of great contentions already begun, and likely to increase, and to the satisfying of many doubtful consciences.
“We, in the mean time, pray in the name of God and our sovereign queen, for the present safety of our lives, the benefit and help of her majesty's laws, and of the public charter of the land; which is, that we may be received upon bail, until by order of law we be convicted of some crime deserving of bonds. We pledge unto you our faith in God, and our allegiance to her majesty, that we will not commit any thing unworthy of the Gospel of Christ, or to the disturbance of the common peace and good order of the land ; and that we will be ready forthcoming at such reasonable warning as your lordships shall command. It standeth not with your honourable estimation and justice, to suffer us to be thus oppressed or punished; yea, thus 10