Charlotte Elizabeth.

Alice Benden, or The bowed shilling, and other tales online

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excommunicated by the church, and put to
death by the civil magistrate. So ys^u see
how wonderfully exact is the fulfilmentsof
our Lord's words, in Luke xi. 52. '' Woe
unto you, lawyers, for ye have taken away
the key of knowledge ; ye enter not in your-
selves, and them that were entering in ye
hindered." And, lastly, the Church of Rome
contradicts the Lord, where he says, he is
the life. You know, that in explanation of
his meaning, when calling himself the resur^
rection and the life, our gracious Lord adds,
•* He that believeth in me, though h6 were
dead, yet shall he live ; and whosoever liv-
eth and believeth in me, shall never die."
John xi. 25, 26. It was the great doctrine
of the blessed reformation, that this believ*
ing in Christ was .life to the soul; and the
true Christian' church has always held fast
that word, ^' This is the record, that God
hath given to us eternal life, and this life is
in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life,
and he that bath not the Son of 6od, hath
not life. These things have I written unto
you that believe on the name of the Son of
God, that ye may know that ye have eternal

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life, and that ye may believe on the name of
the Son of God." 1 John v. 11-13, Our
Lord also says of his own people, "My
sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and
they follow me ; and I give unto them eter-
nal life ; and they shall never perish, neither
shall any pluck them out of my hand."
John X. 27, 28. By these, and many, very
many other Scriptures to the same purpose,
Christ's followers are taught that none who
truly and wholly put their trust in him, shall
ever be confounded; nor can they allow
other saviors, other mediators, to rob him of
the glory that belongs to him alone. See
how differently the unhappy Romanists re-
gard this important subject ; instead of com-
ing to Christ in faith, to receive out of his
fulness the grace that he is so able and so
wHling to give, they make their prayers to
the Virgin Mary, and an immense number
of dead men and women, some of whom
were pious Christians, who would turn away
with horror from such idolatrous service ;
others were people whose merit consisted in
fiercely persecuting the flock of Christ ; and
not a few among these imaginary helpers.

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iierer existed at all. Could any one wlio
beliered that in the Lord alone he had right-
eousnese and strength, Mi on his knees, and
pray to a dead woman in these terms. *' We
iy to thy patronage, O holy mother of God ;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
bat deliver us from all dangers, O ever glo-
rious and blessed Virgin." Yet that is the
commencement of a litany constantly used
bj the Romanists, addressed to the Virgin
Mary. Nor is this all ; the angels are like-
wise objects of their worship ; a daily pray-
er is appointed to be addressed to one whom
they call their guardian angel, and — ^you
would hardly believe this — the very wood
of the cross is worshiped, by the name of
wood, and called on as a savior. ^ These
things, also, are insisted on as being neces-
sary to salvation : and tell me, my children,
do you think that any one who considers
them so, can believe the words of the Lord
Jesus, '< I am the life ;'' '< He that believeth
on Qie hath everlasting life," and the other
texts that declare the same thing ?*

* I am sure diey cannot, Mamma,' replied
Thomas : 'You know, the Jews, when our

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Lord was on the earth, had made a great
many additions to God's law ; and he told
them they made void the commandment of
God by their traditions. If that was the
case under the old law, surely it is much
more so under the Gospel. I should think
that, to say the very least of it, those who
add such things as you have spoken of, must
make void the commandment of Christ, even
if the things themselves were not so foolish
and wicked as they are.'

Frank added, *I am afraid the teachers
of such ways are among those whom the
Lord calls thieves and robbers. They do
not lead the people in by the door, which is

^Dear Alice Benden!' said Fanny. 'I
don't so much wonder now that she could
better bear to lie for nine weeks in that dis-
mal, cold, wet place, looking to the Lord
Jesus, and trusting in him, than to agree 'in
such untruths as the Romanists teach. But
how could so many do it, Mamma ? Do you
think that all the people who were not bum*
ed believed in their hearts what you have
been telling us T'

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« No, my dear ; probably not one in ten.'

'TJ^en why did they not turn against the
cruel people who persecuted thera ?'

'It was God's will shortly to remove
Queen Mary, and to place her Protestant
sister Elizabeth on the throne ; otherwise it
is probable that England would hardly have
furnished wood enough to burn the martyrs
who were prepared to suffer. You must re-
member, u^y dear children, that Protestant-
ism is the religion of the Bible ; and can you what the Bible says about obedience
to rulers V

Here the leaves were turned over again
very quickly, and each had a text ready.
Fanny, who had asked the question, was the
first to bring forward an answer to it. She
read Romans xiii. 1, 2. *^ Let every soul be
subject unto the higher powers. For there
is no power but of God* the powers that be
are ordained of God. Whosoever, there-'
fore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordi-
nance of God ; and they that resist shall re-
ceive to themselves damnation."

Frank chose the two first verses of the
third chapter of Titus : «' Put them in mind

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to be subject to principalities and powers ;
to obey magistrates ; to be ready to every
good work ; to speak evil of no man, to be
no brawlers, but gentle^ showing all meek-
ness unto all men."

Thomas read from 1 Peter ii. 13, 14,
" Submit yourselves to every ordinanee of
man for the Lord's sake ; whether it be to <
the king as supreme, or unto governers, as
unto them that arc sent by him for the pun-
ishment of evil do^rs, and for the praise of
them that do well.*'

Robert took up the same chapter and
went on from the nineteenth verse : " For
this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience
toward God endure grief, suffering wrong-
fully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be
buffeted for your faults ye shall tak« it pa-
tiently ? but if, when ye do well and suffer
for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptltble
with God. For even hereunto were ye call-
ed ; because Christ also suffered for *U8, leav-
ing us an example, that we should follow his
steps; who did no sin, neither was guile
found in his mouth : who, when he was re-
viled, reviled not again ; when he suffered!.

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he threatened not ; but committed himself to
him that jud'geth righteously."

* Precious words !' exclaimed Mrs. Willis.
* See/ my children, how the Lord enabled
his poor flock in patience to possess their
souls, it^eekly awaiting the appointed tim^
of their deliverance. That the cruel mur-
derers were afraid of some violent resistance
on the part of the people, is plain ; for they
never ventured to burn a martyr without a
strong guard of armed men. At the begin-
ning, almost, of Mary*s persecution, they
put to death the godly Bishop Hooper ; and
such contrivances they had, while taking
him from London to his own town of Glou-
cester, as proved their dread oif Vh insurrec-
tion in his favor. They never halted at any
place where the good bishop was accus-
tomed to stop ; but inquired out those, at
which h^'e was least known : and when, on
bringing him into the town, a cry of lament-
ation burst from the afflicted spectators, who
saw their belove^ pastor being led to a pris-
on instead of his own hospitable home, the
guards were so frightened, that they sent a
messenger galloping on for succor, saying

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there would be an attack and rescue, A
more striking proof of their guilty fears was
afforded at Cambridge, when, after digging
up from the peaceful grave the bodfes of
Martin Bucer, and Paul Phagius, two pious
divines of King Edward's days, they took
the coffins to the stake, surrounded by a
strong body of spearsmen, and guarded with
all sorts of weapons. The dead men, as the
people truly remarked, could neither resist
nor run away ; and the apprehension of a
tumult among the living alone could account
for it.'

* Burn dead bodies !' cried Fanny, * Can
that be true, Mamma V

•Certainly, my dear. Don't you know
that our great reformer, Wickliff, the first
who openly wrote and spoke against popery
in England, was dug up, forty years after his
death, his bones burnt, and the ashes cast in«
to the little brook at Lutterworth?'

The children looked at one another, and
laughed. Robert observed, * There is a cu-
rious story in Foxe, ofaman who was hang-
ed for theft, and who seems to have been
brought to real repentance and faith in the

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Sftvior. At his execution he openly re-
nounced the doctrines of the Romish church,
repeating with great devotion that petition in
the Litany, which was in good King Ed-
ward's Prayer Book. " From the tyranny
of the Bishop of Rome and all his detesta*
ble enormities, good Lord deliver us !" The
crowd around the gallows cried '^ Amen."
When the bishops heard of this, they thought
it too serious a matter to be passed over : so
Bonner had a citation fixed to the church
doors, commanding John Tooley, the man
who had been hanged, to appear in court
within a certain time, and answer for his her-*
esies. Tooley, as you may suppose, did not
come : then they excommunicated him, and
a part of the sentence which they actually
published, forbade any man to eat or drink .
with John Tooley, or to bid him good mor-
row^ if they met him by the way. At last
they had his body dug up and burned.'

Again the children laughed, and Frank
said, * If they had done no worse than that»
it would have oeen a small matter ; but put«
ting living bodies into thefire, ia hoiriUe.'

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« Was there a guard about Alice Benden,
Mamma ?' said Fanny.

* Yes : they dared not take a victim to the
stake without one, as I told you : but so weU
did they know how little it was needed, by
way of seeuring the martyr, that before the
time of Alice Benden's burning, when they
murdered thirteen at once, at Stratford-le
bow, having only three stakes, they fasten
ed the eleven men to them, leaving the two
others, who were women, loose among the
faggots : and there they stood, as still as if
they too had been chained, never flinching
while the flames rose about them, and con-
sumed their flesh to a cinder.'

' Never talk to me of the cruelties of hea-
then persecutors, after that, Robert,' said
Thomas, ' I have heard nothing like it yet.'

Mrs. Willis remarked, ' It was a glorious
testimony to the faith and patient endurance
of the martyrs, and the Lord magnified his
great power in the feebleness of their tended
flesh, by enduing them with such amazing
fortitude. ** Out of weakness they were
made strong."

*Do, Mamma, teUus something more of

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Ood's help given to the dear mar^s,' said

* I will tell you of Thomas Hawkes. He
was a gentleman, who in the days of King
Edward the Sixth, of blessed memory, had
been much at court : but when the times
changed for the worse, he left all for Christ,
liying quietly at home in his own family. A
little son was born to him, and Mr. Hawkes,
justly abhorring the unchristian and fantas*
tical form of administering baptism in the
Romish church, kept the infant awhile un-
baptized, till he could find a true minister of
of God, to do it scripturally and rightly.
For this ^e was taken before the cruel bishop
of London, Bonner, and every possible way
was tried to bring him into their church.
All the most learned Romish doctors, by
turns, came to him at the bishop's house,
and argued with him ; but Mr. Hawkes kept
elose to the word of God ; he had built his
house on the rock, and in vain did the ene-
my try to beat it down. When they found
there was no hope of gaining him over, they
resolved to bum him; and this steady
Christian was taken to the place of his last

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trial. Some friends of hist who had been
much strengthened in the faith by his bold
and firm conduct, privately told him, that
hough he was so little moved by the threats
of his enemies, they doubted whether he
could bear the actual pains of such a terrible
death ; therefore they requested of him, if he
found the raging heat of the fire such as
might "be endured, that he would, when about
to die, lift his hand above his head towards

Thomas remarked, * I suppose they were
expecting the same treatmeot themselves,
and wanted to know if they would be ena-
bled to go through it.'

* That was their object^ I have no doubt,'
replied his Mamma. * Well, the time came,
Mr. Hawkes was brought out, and a great
multitude stood round, among whom his anx-
ious friends took their places. He made
many pious remarks to the people about
him, prayed o^rnestly, undressed himsell^
and went to the atake. The fire was kin-
dled, and the martyr stood, till his ap|ieatw'
ance, (and he was a remarkably 'fine hand-
tome man,) was completely ehaoged. HSi

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AtlCS BKNDSlf. 09

Speech was gone, his skin was erackled and
drawn together, and the fingers nearly hurnt
from his hands. He seemed to hayebeen
some time dead, and every one must hare
hoped that he was, when, suddenly, he lifted
both arms above his head, at full stretch,
and three times in a rejoicing manner clap
ped his hands together, a light flame being
at that moment briskly burning from the
stump of every finger. The loudest outcrie|
burst from the astonished people, like the
shout that was raised when the Lord, by fire,
answered Elijah's prayer, and confounded
the priests x)f Baal. You may judge what
the friends felt, for whose sake die sign was
given. The blessed martyr had been mind-
ful of his promise; he remained still until he
found himself at the point of death, then, by
the wonderful power of God, gave the proof
his brethren desired, and the next moment,
sinking down into the fire, became a mass of

< I only wonder,' said Frank, < that it did
not convert every body who saw it'

* Conversion is the work of God alone,' re*
plied his mother, * You know, in our Lord's

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100 AftlCB BENDBN.

parable, Abraham is represented as replying
to the unhappy rich man, who wanted to
have his brethren converted by a miracle,
" If they hear not Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be pcrsnaded though
one rose from the dead." Our martyrs
were converted by means of the Scriptures,
and to this day that sharp, bright sword ol
the Spirit is found, to be the only weapon for
letting asunder the bonds with which the
Romish church binds the souls of her
people. The power of popery depends on
making them believe that their church has
greater authority than the word of God : that
whatever their priesis teach them is true,
whether it agrees with the Scriptures or not :
and that, if they do read the Bible, they
must only understand it according to the
meaning put upon it by the clergy. Sup-
pose you had to walk through a difficult
country on a very dark night, and that you
had a ^ood, clear lantern in your hand, you
might go on carefully and safely with such
help. But if a person came and took away
your lamp, or blindfolded you, so that you
could not make use of it, you must suffer

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jroarself to be led by any one who undertook
to. coiiduct you safely, bowever unworthy he
might be of your confidence. Now you
know, David says, " Thy word is a lamp
unto my feet,^ and a light unto my paths."
When you see a Romanist» remember he is
in the case I hare deidcribed, deprived of the
power to see his own way, a*hd led into the
most deadly danger by a false guide whom
he trusts. You will then feel that the great-
est mercy you can show him, is to place
in his hands the lamp of God's word, which
will soon let him see where he is going, if he
uses it rightly : that is to say, if he seeks the
aid of the Holy Spirit, and fairly tries all the
doctrines of his chtirch by the rule of the

* Does every Romanist who reads the Bi-
ble become a Protestant?' asked Fanny.

* No : for many read it as the Jews read the
Old Testament in the synagogues, with the
veil upon their hearts, because they 4o not
turn to the Lord to have it taken away. Some
depend on the explanations which they hear
from their teachers, and never iiiquire for
th6mselve« : others read it in a careless man*

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ner, without considering it as a thing that
concerns them, as much as though it had
been written for them alone. You know
there were persons of whom it is written*
that '* the word did not profit them, not being
mixed with faith in them that heard it ;" and
so it is now. God will notliave his gracious
message lightly regarded, like a thing of no
consequence : it must be received reverently,
believingly, and with earnest pra^r for an
understanding heart. No one ever studied
the Bible in this way without coming to the
knowledge of the truth. Our martyrs sel-
dom possessed a whole Bible; TyndaPs
translation of the New Testament, and the
Psalms, were the portions they generally
had. The Psalter was very highly v^ued
by them, as appears by their usually repeat-
ing one or more of those sweet spiritual songs
when on the way to the stake, and often
amid the flames. You know, Alice Benden
was singing a Psalm when her brother dis-
covered her by her voice.'

^I am sure,' said Fanny, *I shall love
this blessed book the more, now that I know
whatu comfort it has been to the martjrrs.*

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* We ought to love it £6r its own sake,'
said Frank.

* Yes,' replied his Mamma, * we ought in-
deied so to do ; and those who have oftenest,
like David, enjoyed its precious consolations
in their own souls, will prize it most. Still
I feel, with Fanny, that we cannot but give
thanks on behalf of those who, in the midst
of such sufferings as we can hardly imagine,
found in it a constant refreshment for their
drooping souls. It is wonderful, in reading
the examinations of the martyrs, to see how
well able the most unlearned and simple
among them often were to silence the great
doctors, bishops, and others, who tried to
turn them away from the truth. Very fre-
quently these artful examiners quoted the
Scriptures incorrectly, in order to support
their false doctrines ; but they were always
set right by the prisoners, who insisted on
their bringing forward the book itself, to
prove the ignorance or deceitfulness of those
who \/ould have made^ the Holy Bible appear
to favor their errors.'

* I wonder,' si^id Thomas, * how the people

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got 01I9 before iftibles were iui plentiful lu
they are now.'

* His Mamma answered, * The Church of
England has, like the Jewish church of old,
nad the oracles of God committed to it, for
the benefit of the people; and however
scarce the copies of that blessed book may
have been, still all who attended their Parish
Church were sure to hear a large portion 6f
unmixed scripture read in the course of the
service^ What with the psalms, the two
lessons, the epistle, and the gospel, you will,
see that a great deal of pure truth must be
proclaimed. Howeyer, it is certain that
true religion, such as upheld our martyrs,
enabling them for Christ's sake to endure
even a terrible death, has been very scarce
in the land, until within a few years past:
but God has raised up many faithful preach-
ers among us, and has also caused his own
Holy Word to have free course throughout
our country, and to be glorified, as the
means of turning many souls from darkness
to light. Now tell me, dear children, do you
think it enough to keep clear of the false
doctrines and idolatrous worship of the Ro-

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Allies bendAn. 105

mish church, in order to be a real Protest-

This question set them all considering :
at last Thomas «aid, /I think not, Mamma ;
and I will tell you why ; Alice«Benden would
not go to the church, you said, because she
knew that the doings there were sinful ; and'
if she had been free to do as she liked, she
might have staid away. But I don't believe
that a mere opinion about it, or any thing
but her loving God above all — above her
own life — would have enabled her to bear
such long and dreadful cruelties, and to go
at last to be burned alive, when she might
so easily have avoided it'

^ Besides,' said ^rank, * Alice could have
; dissembled. She might have gone to the
mass, without really worshiping the idol;
and so on with the rest of the outside ser-
vices. I am sure she must have realty and
with all her heart believed the awful threat-
ening of our Lord Jesus Christ, and depend-
ed entirely upon his promise, which none
can do without the gift of faith.'

* What threat, and what promise, do yoa
0)eaa« Thomas t'

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* 1 mean those words in the tenth of Mat-
thew, '^Whosoeyer, therefore, shall confess
me hefore men, him will I confess aim) be-
fore my Father which is in Heaven: hot
whosoever shall deny me before men, him
will I also deny before my Father which is
in heaven." It seems that Alice and^ the
other martyrs knew it would be mockizfg
Ood to pretend any fellowship with his ene-
mies. I donU think that all who bear the
name of Protestants would go so far as this ;
or that any body could do so, without great
faith — such faith as we are saved by.'

Robert said, ^ I agree with you, Thomas t
and there is another text in Romans Xs
^* With the heart man believeth unto right-
eousness ; and with the mouth confession is
made unto salvation." It is very easy for
us, in these safe and quiet times, to say how
&r we would go in defending the religion
that we profess ; but put one of us into
Alice Benden's dungeon, in the midst of
winter, on a little damp straw, between stone *
walls, with only as much briead as would
just keep life in the body, and cold water to
wash it down, with the prospect of a fiery

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death befare ub, and I am very sure that it
must be strength given from above which
would enable any of us to hold out nine
weeks, or nine days either, when a little hy-
pocrisy would restore us to freedom, ease,
and plenty.'

* Ah, Mamma,' said Frank, * if that shilling
eottld understand and speak, it would tell us
of many a hard battle that poor dear Alice
had with the tempter.'

His Mamma replied, ^If indeed it was
Alice Benden's shilling, my dear, as we are
all pleased to fismcy, it has witnessed greater
battles and nobler conquests than all earth's
kings and mighty warriors could boast of.
Oh, what must have been her sufferings !
When the heavy chills crept over her trem-
bling frame, and her warm breath, congealed
by the wintry air, returned in drops of clam-
my moisture to bedew her flesh and gar-
ments^ with no possible means of drying
them; when the cramping pains produced
by iueh a narrow bed became fixed in the
seardiihg agony of confirmed rheumatism^
and the slightest movement was a pang
Iwrdlf to be endured t when the stomach

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craved, and yearned, and pined for a supply
of its gnawing wants, receiving only what
would keep the keen edge of hunger doubly
whetted ; and the draught of icy water sent
an aguish thrill through every trembling
joint : and the very shreds that interposed
bet>reen her festering skin and the cold earth
beneath, and colder stones around her, be-
came a loathsome encumbrance, hardly, to
be borne ; oh then it was indeed a glorious,
a victorious faith that could turn every plaint
into that confiding ezpresaion, * The right
hand of the Lord can change all.' Her
very lamentations were breathed, not in the
fretful utterances of harassed human nature,
but in the sweet, and solemn, ^d subdued
language which the Holy Ghost prut into the

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Online LibraryCharlotte ElizabethAlice Benden, or The bowed shilling, and other tales → online text (page 5 of 8)