John Foxe.

Examinations and martyrdom of Dr. Rowland Taylor, A.D. 1555 online

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No. 5.] NARRATIVE SERIES. [™%^ d -




A.D. 1555.
Abridged from the "Acts and Monuments of John I'oxe."








Dr. Taylor was a native of Rothbury, in Northumberland.
He was of the University of Cambridge, where the conversation
of Dr. Turner and the preaching of Latimer proved to be the
means of his conversion. The following narrative of his suf-
fering for the truth of God's Word, is, with few exceptions, in
the very words of Foxe, the martyrologist : —

The town of Hadley [in Suffolk] was one of the first that
received the Word of God in all England, at the preaching of
master Thomas Bilney ; by whose industry the Gospel of Christ
had such gracious success, and took such root there, that a great
number in that parish became exceeding well learned in the
holy Scriptures, as well women as men ; so that a man might
have found among them many that had often read the whole
Bible through, and that could have said a great part of St.
Paul's Epistles by heart, and very well and readily have given a
godly learned sentence in any matter of controversy. Their
children and servants were also brought up and trained so dili-
gently in the right knowledge of God's Word, that the whole
town seemed rather a university of the learned, than a town of
cloth-making or labouring people. And (what most is to be
commended) they were for the more part faithful followers of
God's Word in their living.

In this town was Dr. Rowland Taylor, doctor in both the civil
and canon laws, and a right perfect divine parson ; who at his
first entering into his benefice did not, as the common sort of
beneficed men do, let out his benefice to a farmer, who should
gather up the profits, and set in an ignorant unlearned priest to

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serve the cure, and so they have the fleece, little or nothing care
for feeding the flock : but, contrarily, he made his personal abode
and dwelling in Hadley, among the people committed to his
charge ; where he as a good shepherd, abiding and dwelling
among his sheep, gave himself wholly to the study of holy Scrip-
tures, most faithfully endeavouring himself to fulfil that charge
which the Lord gave unto Peter, saying, " Peter, lovest thou
me ? feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my sheep." This love
of Christ so wrought in him, that no Sunday nor holyday passed,
nor other time when he might get the people together, but he
preached to them the Word of God, the doctrine of their

Not only was his word a preaching unto them, but all his life
and conversation was an example of unfeigned Christian life and
true holiness. He was void of all pride, humble and meek as
any child; so that none were so poor, but they might boldly, as
unto their father, resort unto him. Neither was his lowliness
childish or fearful ; but as occasion, time, and place required, he
would be stout in rebuking the sinful and evil doers, so that none
was so rich but he would tell him plainly his fault, with such
earnest and grave rebukes as became a good curate and pastor.
He was a man very mild, void of all rancour, grudge, or evil
will, ready to do good to all men, readily forgiving his enemies,
and never sought to do evil to any.

To the poor that were blind, lame, sick, bedrid, or that had
many children, he was a very father, a careful patron, and diligent
provider ; insomuch that he caused the parishioners to make a
general provision for them ; and he himself (beside the continual
relief that they always found at his house), gave an honest portion
yearly to the common alms-box. His wife also was an honest,
discreet, and sober matron, and his children well nurtured, brought
up in the fear of God and good learning.

To conclude, he was a right and lively image or pattern of all
those virtuous cjualities described by St. Paul in a true bishop ;
good salt of the earth, savourily biting the corrupt manners of
evil men ; a light in God's house, set upon a candlestick, for all
good men to imitate and follow.

Thus continued this good shepherd among his flock, governing
and leading them through the wilderness of this wicked world,
all the days of the most innocent and holy king of blessed
memory, Edward the Sixth. But after it pleased God to take
King Edward from this vale of misery unto his most blessed rest,
the Papists, who ever sembled and dissembled, both with King
Henry the Eighth, and with King Edward his son, now seeing
the time convenient for their purpose, openly refused all good
reformation made by the said two kings, and violently overthrew

the true doctrine of the Gospel, and persecuted with sword and
fire all those that would not agree to receive again the Roman
bishop as supreme head of the Universal Church, and allow ail
the errors, superstitions, and idolatries, that before (by God's
Word) were disproved and justly condemned.

In the beginning of this rage of Antichrist, a certain lawyer,
called Foster, a man of no great skill, but a bitter persecutor in
those days, conspired with one John Clerk to bring in the Pope
and his maumetry [Idolatry] again into Hadley church. For
as yet Dr. Taylor, as a good shepherd, had retained and kept in
his church the godly Church service and reformation made by
King Edward, and most faithfully and earnestly preached against
the Popish corruptions, which had infected the whole country
round about.

Therefore the aforesaid Foster and Clerk hired one John
Averth, parson of Aldham, a blind leader of the blind, to come
to Hadley, and there to give the onset to begin again the Popish
mass. To this purpose they builded up the altar with all haste
possible, intending to bring in their mass again about Palm
Monday. But this their device took none effect ; for in the
night the altar was beaten down. Wherefore they built it up
again the second time, and laid diligent watch, lest any should
again break it down.

On the day following, came Foster and John Clerk, bringing
with them their Popish sacrificer, who brought with him all his
implements and garments, to play his Popish pageant, whom they
and their men guarded with swords and bucklers, lest any man
should disturb him in his missal sacrifice.

When Dr. Taylor, who, according to his custom, sat at his
book studying the Word of God, heard the bells ring, he arose
and went into the church, supposing that something had been
there to be done, according to his pastoral office ; and coming to
the church, he found the church doors shut and fast barred,
saving the chancel door, which was only latched. Where he
entering in, and coming into the chancel, saw a Popish sacrificer
in his robes, with a broad new shaven crown, ready to begin his
Popish sacrifice, beset round about with drawn swords and buck-
lers, lest any man should approach to disturb him.

Then said Dr. Taylor, " Who made thee so bold to enter into
this church of Christ, to profane and defile it with this abominable
idolatry ? " With that started up Foster, and with an ireful
countenance said to Dr. Taylor, " What doest thou here, to let
and disturb the Queen's proceedings ? " Dr. Taylor answered,
" I am the shepherd that God my Lord Christ hath appointed
to feed this his flock : wherefore I have good authority to be
here : and I command thee, thou Popish wolf, in the name of


God, to avoid hence, and not to presume here, with such Popish
idolatry, to poison Christ's flock."

Then said Foster, " Wilt thou traitorously, heretic, make a
commotion, and resist violently the Queen's proceedings ? "

Dr. Taylor answered, " I make no commotion, but it is you,
Papists, that make commotions and tumults. I resist only with
God's Word against your Popish idolatries, which are against
God's Word, the Queen's honour, and tend to the utter subversion
of this realm of England. And further thou dost against the
canon law, which commands that no mass be said but at a con-
secrated altar."

When the parson of Aldham heard that, he began to shrink
back, and would have left his saying of mass.

Then Foster, with his armed men, took Dr. Taylor, and led
him with strong hand out of the church, and the Popish prelate
proceeded in his Romish idolatry. Dr. Taylor's wife, who fol-
lowed her husband into the church, when she saw her husband
thus violently thrust out of his church, kneeled down and held
up her hands, and with a loud voice said, " I beseech God, the
righteous Judge, to avenge this injury that this Popish idolater
this day doth to the blood of Christ." Then they thrust her out
of the church also, and shut the doors ; for they feared that the
people would have rent their sacrificer in pieces.

Within a day or two after, with all haste possible, this Foster
and Clerk made a complaint of Dr. Taylor, by a written letter
to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chan-
cellor. When the bishop heard this, he sent a letter missive to
Dr. Taylor, commanding him within certain days to come and
appear before him upon his allegiance, to answer such complaints
as were made against him.

When Dr. Taylor's friends heard of this, they were exceeding
sorry and grieved in mind ; and foreseeing to what end the matter
would come; seeing also all truth and justice were trodden
under foot, and falsehood with cruel tyranny were set aloft and
ruled all the whole rout ; they earnestly counselled him to depart
and fly, alleging and declaring unto him that he could neither be
indifferently heard to speak his conscience and mind, nor yet
look for justice or favour at the said Chancellor's hands, who, as
it was well known, was most fierce and cruel ; but must needs
(if he went up to him) wait for imprisonment and cruel death at
his hands.

Then said Dr. Taylor to his friends, " Dear friends, I most
heartily thank you for that you have so tender a care over me.
And although I know that there is neither justice nor truth to be
looked for at my Jversaries' hands, but rather imprisonment,
and cruel deatl yet know I my cause to be so good and

righteous, and the truth so strong upon my side, that I will, by
God's grace, go and appear before them, and to their beards
resist their false doing."

Then said his friends, " Master Doctor, we think it not best
so to do. You have sufficiently done your duty, and testified
the truth, both by your godly sermons, and also in resisting the
parson of Aldham, with others, that came hither to bring in again
the Popish mass. And forasmuch as our Saviour Christ willeth
and biddeth us, that when they persecute us in one city, we
should fly into another; we think in flying at this time, ye should
do best, keeping yourself against another time, when the Church
shall have great need of such diligent teachers and godly

" Oh ! " said Dr. Taylor, " What will ye have me to do ? I
am now old, and have already lived too long, to see these terrible
and most wicked days. Fly you, and do as your consciences
lead you. I am fully determined, with God's grace, to go to the
bishop, and to his beard to tell him that he doth naught. God
shall well hereafter raise up teachers of his people, who shall,
with much more diligence and fruit teach them, than I have
done. For God will not forsake his Church, though now for a
time he trieth and correcteth us, and not without a just cause.
As for me, I believe before God, I shall never be able to do God
so good service, as I may do now ; nor shall I ever have so
glorious a calling, as I now have, nor so great mercy of God
proffered me, as is now at this present. For what Christian man
would not gladly die against the Pope and his adherents ? I
know that the Papacy is the kingdom of Antichrist, altogether
full of lies, altogether full of falsehood. Wherefore I beseech
you and all other my friends, to pray for me ; and I doubt not
but God will give me strength and his Holy Spirit, that all mine
adversaries shall have shame of their doings."

When his friends saw him so constant, and fully determined to
go, they with weeping eyes commended him unto God ; and he
within a day or two prepared himself for his journey, leaving
his cure with a godly old priest, named Sir Richard Yeoman,
who afterwards, for God's truth, was burnt at Norwich.

Dr. Taylor, being accompanied with a servant of his own,
named John Hull, took his journey towards London. By the
way, this John Hull laboured to counsel and persuade him very
earnestly to fly, and not come to the bishop, and proffered him-
self to go with him to serve him ; and in all perils to venture his
life for him, and with him. But in no wise would Dr. Taylor
consent or agree thereunto, but said, " Oh ! John, shall I give
place to this thy counsel and worldly persuasion, and leave my
flock in this danger ? Remember the good Shepherd, Christ,


who not alone fed his flock, but also died for his flock. Him
must I follow, and, with God's grace, will do. Therefore, good
John, pray for me, and if thou seest me weak at any time, com-
fort me ; and discourage me not in this my godly enterprise and

Thus they came up to London ; and shortly after Dr. Taylor
presented himself to the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner,
then Lord Chancellor of England.

Now when Gardiner saw Dr. Taylor, he, according to his
common custom, reviled him, calling him knave, traitor, heretic,
with many other villainous reproaches; all which Dr. Taylor
heard patiently, and at the last said unto him, " My Lord, I am
neither traitor nor heretic, but a true subject, and a faithful
Christian man, and am come according to your commandment,
to know what is the cause that your Lordship hath sent for me."

Then said the Bishop, " Art thou come, thou villain ? How
darest thou look me in the face for shame ? Knowest thou not
who I am ? " " Yes," said Dr. Taylor, " I know who you are.
Ye are Doctor Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and
Lord Chancellor, and yet but a mortal man, I trow. But if I
should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear you not God, the
Lord of us all ? How dare you for shame look any Christian
man in the face, seeing ye have forsaken the truth, denied our
Saviour Christ and his Word, and done contrary to your own
oath and writing ? With what countenance will ye appear
before the judgment-seat of Christ, and answer to your cath
made first unto King Henry the Eighth, of famous memory, and
afterward unto King Edward the Sixth, his son? "

The Bishop answered, " Tush 3 tush ! that was Herod's oath,
unlawful, and therefore worthy to be broken. I have done well
in breaking it : and, I thank God, I am come home again to our
mother, the Catholic Church of Rome, and so I would thou
shouldest do."

Dr. Taylor answered, " Should I forsake the Church of
Christ, which is founded upon the true foundation of the apostles
and prophets, to approve those lies, errors, superstitions, and
idolatries, which the Popes and their company at this day so
blasphemously do approve ? Nay, God forbid. Let the Pope
and his return to our Saviour Christ and his Word, and thrust
out of the Church such abominable idolatries as he maintaineth,
and then will Christian men turn unto him. You wrote truly
against him, and were sworn against him."

" I tell thee," said the Bishop of Winchester, " it was Herod's
oath, unlawful, and therefore ought to be broken and not kept:
and our holy father the Pope hath discharged me of it."

Then said Dr. Taylor, " But you shall not so be discharged

before Christ, who doubtless will require it at your hands, as a
lawful oath made to your liege and sovereign lord the King, from
whose obedience no man can assoil [absolve] you, neither the
Pope, nor any of his.''

" I see," said the Bishop, " thou art an arrogant knave, anil
a very fool."

" My Lord," said Dr. Taylor, " leave your unseemly railing
at me, which is not seemly for such a one in authority, as you
are. For I am a Christian man, and you know that he that
saith to his brother, Raca, is in danger of a council, and he that
saith, Thou fool, is in danger of hell fire."

The Bishop answered, " Ye are false, and liars, all the sort of


" Nay," said Dr. Taylor, " we are true men, and know that
it is written, The mouth that lieth slayeth the soul. And again,
Lord God, thou shalt destroy all that speak lies. And therefore
we abide by the truth of God's Word, which ye, contrary to
your own consciences, deny and forsake."

" Thou art married," said the Bishop. — " Yea," said Dr.
Taylor, " that, I thank God, I am, and have had nine children,
and all in lawful matrimony. And blessed be God who ordained
matrimony, and commanded that every man that hath not the
gift of continency should marry a wife of his own, and not live
in adultery or whoredom."

Then said the Bishop, " Thou hast resisted the Queen's pro-
ceedings, and wouldest not suffer the parson of Aldham, a very
virtuous and devout priest, to say mass in Hadley." Dr. Taylor
answered, " My Lord, I am parson of Hadley, and it is against
all right, conscience, and laws, that any man should come into
my charge and presume to infect the flock committed unto me,
with venom of the Popish idolatrous mass."

With that the Bishop waxed very angry, and said, " Thou art
a blasphemous heretic indeed, that blasphemest the blessed
sacrament (and he put off his cap) and speakest against the
holy mass, which is made a sacrifice for the quick and the dead.''
Dr. Taylor answered, " Nay, I blaspheme not the blessed sacra-
ment which Christ instituted, but I reverence it as a true Chris-
tian man ought to do ; and confess that Christ ordained the holy
Communion in remembrance of his death and passion, which
when we keep according to his ordinance, we, through faith, eat
the body of Christ, and drink his blood, giving thanks for our
redemption ; and this is our sacrifice for the quick and the dead,
to give God thanks for his merciful goodness showed to us, in
that he gave his Son Christ unto the death for us."

" Thou sayest well," said the Bishop, " It is all that thou hast
said, and more too ; for it is a propitiatory sacrifice for the quick

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and the dead." Then answered Dr. Taylor, " Christ gave him-
self to die for our redemption upon the cross, whose body there
offered was the propitiatory sacrifice, full, perfect, and sufficient
unto salvation, for all them that believe in him. And this
sacrifice our Saviour Christ offered in his own person, himself,
once for all, neither can any priest any more offer him, nor do
we need any more propitiatory sacrifice ; and therefore I say
with Chrysostom, and all the doctors, Our sacrifice is only
memorative, in the remembrance of Christ's death and passion, a
sacrifice of thanksgiving, and therefore the fathers call it Eucha-
ristia ; and none other sacrifice hath the Church of God."

" It is true," said the Bishop, " the sacrament is called Eucha-
rist, a thanksgiving, because we there give thanks for our re-
demption; and it is also a sacrifice propitiatory for the quick
and the dead, which thou shalt confess ere thou and I have
done." Then the Bishop called his men, and said, " Have this
fellow hence, and carry him to the King's Bench, and charge the
keeper he be straitly kept."

Then kneeled Dr. Taylor down, and held up both his hands,
and said, " Good Lord, I thank thee ; and from the tyranny of
the Bishop of Rome, and all his detestable errors, idolatries, and
abominations, good Lord, deliver us : and God be praised for
good King Edward." So they carried him to prison, to the
King's Bench, where he lay prisoner almost two years.

In prison Dr. Taylor spent all his time in prayer, reading the
holy Scriptures, and writing, and preaching, and exhorting the
prisoners and such as resorted to him, to repentance and amend-
ment of life. And finding there the virtuous and vigilant
preacher of God's Word, Master Bradford (who for his innocent
and godly living, his devout and virtuous preaching, was wor-
thily counted a miracle of our time, as even his adversaries must
confess), he began to exhort him to faith, strength, and patience,
and to persevere constant unto the end. Master Bradford, hear-
ing this, thanked God that he had provided him such a comfort-
able prison-fellow ; and so they both together lauded God, and
continued in prayer, reading, and exhorting one the otfier ;
insomuch that Dr. Taylor told his friends that came to visit
him, that God had most graciously provided for him, to send
him to that prison where he found such an angel of God, to be
in his company to comfort him.

After Dr. Taylor had lain in prison awhile, he was cited to
appear in the Arches at Bow Church, to answer unto such
matters as there should be objected against him. At the day
appointed he was led thither, his keeper waiting upon him;
where, when he came, he stoutly and strongly defended his
marriage, affirming by the Scriptures of God, by the doctors of


the primitive church, by the laws both civil and canon, that it is
lawful for priests to marry, and that such as have not the gift of
continency, are bound on pain of damnation to marry. This
did he so plainly prove, that the judge could give no sentence of
divorce against him, but gave sentence he should be deprived of
his benefice because he was married.

" You do me wrong then," said Dr. Taylor; and alleged
many laws and constitutions for himself. But all prevailed not ;
for he was again carried into prison, and his livings taken away,
and given to other.

After a year and three quarters, or thereabout, the Papists
got certain old tyrannous laws, which were put down by King
Henry VIII. and by King Edward, to be again revived by Par-
liament ; so that now they might, ex officio, cite whom they
would, upon their own suspicion, and charge them with what
articles they pleased ; and except they in all things agreed to
their purpose, burn them. When these laws were once estab-
lished, Dr. Taylor was summoned before the Chancellor and
other commissioners, the 22d of January, 1555. The purport
and effect of his examination are described by himself, in his
own letter written to a friend of his.

First, the Lord Chancellor [Bishop of Winchester] said,
" You, among other, are at this time sent for, to enjoy the
King's and Queen's Majesties' favour and mercy, if you will
now rise again with us from the fall which we generally have
received in this realm ; from the which (God be praised) we
are now clearly delivered miraculously. If you will not rise
with us now, and receive mercy now offered, you shall have
judgment according to your demerits." To this Dr. Taylor
answered, " So to rise, should be the greatest fall that ever I
could receive : for I should so fall from my dear Saviour Christ
to Antichrist. For I do believe that the religion set forth in
King Edward's days was according to the vein of the holy
Scripture, which containeth fully all the rules of our Christian
religion, from the which I do not intend to decline so long as I
live, by God's grace."

Then Master Secretary Bourn said, " Which of the religions
mean you of, in King Edward's days? For you know there
were divers books of religion set forth in his days. There was
a religion set forth in a catechism by my lord of Canterbury
[Archbishop Cranmer]. Do you mean that you will stick to
that?" Dr. Taylor answered, " My lord of Canterbury made a
catechism to be translated in English, Avhich book was not of
his own making ; yet he set it forth in his own name, and truly
that book for the time did much good. But there was, after
that, set forth by the most innocent King Edward (for whom


God be praised everlastingly), ■ The Whole Church Service,
set forth with great deliberation, and the advice of the best
learned men of the realm, and authorized by the whole Parlia-
ment, and received and published gladly by the whole realm :
which book was never reformed but once ; and yet, by that one
reformation it was so fully perfected, according to the rules of
our religion in every behalf, that no Christian conscience could
be offended with anything therein contained — I mean, of that
book reformed."

Then the Lord Chancellor said, " Didst thou never read the
book that I had set forth of the Sacrament ? " Dr. Taylor
answered, " I have read it." The Lord Chancellor said, "How
likest thou that book ?" Dr. Taylor said, " My lord, I think
many things be far wide from the truth of God's Word in that

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Online LibraryJohn FoxeExaminations and martyrdom of Dr. Rowland Taylor, A.D. 1555 → online text (page 1 of 3)