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MR. JOHN Fox, the martyrologist's letter to Queen Elizabeth, to dissuade her from burning two Dutch Anabaptists in Smithfield, in the year 1575.
* "Most serene and happy Princess; most illustrious Queen; the glory of our country; the ornament of the age!
Nothing could ever be farther from my thoughts and expectation, than that I should disturb your majesty with my unreasonable addresses; and I am extremely grieved that I cannot continue to observe that respectful silence towards you, in which I have always been desirous to remain. But so it happens most unfortunately, I know not how, that the present time and occasion carry me to that to which I have been always most averse, and I who have to this hour lived in a way so as to be troublesome to no one, am now compelled against my inclination to become an importunate solicitor to my sovereign; not however in any cause, or for any thing relating to myself, but prompted by the most calamitous situation of others; which is indeed so dreadful and pitiable, that it makes me the more earnest to present my suit for them to your majesty.
* Fuller's Church History of Britain, pp. 104, 105.
"There are, I am informed, here in England, some persons, not of our own country, but foreigners, Hollanders I apprehend, of both sexes, who have been tried for heretical opinións; some of whom have been happily reclaimed, and have renounced their errors, while others,, not a few in number, have been condemned to leave the country, and very justly in my opinion. But one or two of them I learn are soon to be burned to death, unless you, of your goodness, graciously interpose to prevent it.
"In cases of this nature there are two circumstances to be attended to; the malignity of the crime, and the severity of the punishment inflicted. As to the errors of these persons, no one in his senses but must own that nothing could ever be more absurd; and I wonder that any Christian could fall into such hideous opinions. But such, alas! is the weakness of our nature, that if the divine light ever so little forsakes us, we rush headlong we know not where. And therefore I am thankful to Christ that I see none of my countrymen infected with this frenzy.
"With respect to these fanatical sects I am far from thinking that they ought to be encouraged by the state, but rather to be restrained by proper correction. But then with fire and faggot to roast alive the bodies of these miserable people, who mistake more through blindness and weak
ness of judgment than wilful obstinacy, seems a hard thing, and more agreeable to the Papal spirit than the mildness of the gospel, and indeed such as could have proceeded from none but the bishops of Rome, one of whom, Innocent III., was he that first brought this brazen bull of Perillus into the church of Christ, in its nature abhorring such cruelties..
"Far be it from me to undertake the patronage of crimes, or to countenance erroneous doctrines: but as a man, I wish to preserve the lives of my fellow-men; and this not to encourage them in their errors, but to draw them out of them. Nay, I would save the lives not only of men, but also of brute creatures, if I could. For I am so made, though it may perhaps be foolish in me to mention such things of myself, that I cannot even pass by a slaughter-house, where beasts are killing, but I shrink from the sight with a secret concern. And I cannot but herein admire and adore the mercifulness of the Divine Being, who, in appointing beasts for burnt-offerings, ordered their blood first to be brought to the altar, before they were burnt. Whence we may all learn, that in exacting punishments, however justly they may be due, we should temper their harshness and rigour with clemency.
"Wherefore if I could dare to promise myself that I had any interest with so great a Princess, I would humbly supplicate your majesty, for
Christ's sake, to extend that prerogative of mercy with which the Divine goodness hath invested you, to the sparing of the lives of these unhappy persons, if it may be done; and what cannot your power effect? Or at least that the horror of their present sentence may be changed into another kind of punishment.
"There are punishments by banishing men out of the country; there are close imprisonments, putting in irons, transportation for life; there is branding with an hot iron, whipping, or even hanging to death: but this one thing I would most solicitously beseech your majesty, not to suffer the fires in Smithfield to be lighted up again, which have been hitherto kept under and laid asleep during your happy reign.
"But if such a favour may not be obtained, this one thing I would by all manner of means implore and beseech you, by all the pity that reigns in your breast, that you would allow us at least one or two months, to try whether the Lord will grant that they may be recovered out of their fatal errors, lest together with the destruction of their bodies, the loss of their immortal souls be endangered."
It is by the same honest and useful historian that we are informed of another person, who was burnt for heresy in Smithfield, in the next reign. He has obliged us with a very circumstantial
history of the man and his pestilent opinions, as he calls them, but not without premising a very singular caution against them.*
"His damnable tenets (saith he, Book x. p. 63,) were as followeth :
1. That the creed called the Nicene creed, and Athanasius' creed, contain not a profession of the true Christian faith.
2. That Christ is not God of God, begotten, not made; but begotten, and made.
3. That there are no persons in the Godhead.
4. That Christ was not God from everlasting, but began to be God, when he took flesh of the Virgin Mary.
5. That the world was not made by Christ. 6. That the apostles teach Christ to be man only. 7. That there is no generation in God, but of
8. That this assertion, God to be made man, is contrary to the rule of faith, and monstrous blasphemy.
9. That Christ was not before the fulness of time, except by promise.
* "Before we set down his pestilent opinions, may writer and reader fence themselves with prayer to God, against the infection thereof; lest otherwise, touching such pitch (though but with the bare mention) defile us, casually tempting a temptation in us, and awaking some corruption, which otherwise would sleep silently in our souls,"