An Account of the Inquisition (15/18)

The governor admitted the truth of what Mr. Lithgow said, but replied with a haughty air that the king, who then only ruled Scotland, was actuated more by fear than love, and therefore did not deserve any thanks. One of the Jesuits said there was no faith to be kept with heretics. The inquisitor then rising, addressed himself to Mr. Lithgow in the following words: “You have been taken up as a spy, accused of treachery, and tortured, as we acknowledge, innocently:

(which appears by the account lately received from Madrid of the intentions of the English) yet it was the divine power that brought those judgments upon you, for presumptuously treating the blessed miracle of Loretto with ridicule, and expressing yourself in your writings irreverently of his holiness, the great agent and Christ’s vicar upon earth; therefore you are justly fallen into our hands by their special appointment: thy books and papers are miraculously translated by the assistance of Providence influencing thy own countrymen.”

This trumpery being ended, they gave the prisoner eight days to consider and resolve whether he would become a convert to their religion; during which time the inquisitor told him he, with other religious orders, would attend, to give him such assistance thereto as he might want. One of the Jesuits said, (first making the sign of the cross upon his breast), “My son, behold, you deserve to be burnt alive; but by the grace of our lady of Loretto, whom you have blasphemed we will both save your soul and body.”

In the morning the inquisitor, with three other ecclesiastics, returned, when the former asked the prisoner what difficulties he had on his conscience that retarded his conversion; to which he answered, ‘he had not any doubts in his mind, being confident in the promises of Christ, and assuredly believing his revealed will signified in the Gospels, as professed in the reformed Catholic Church, being confirmed by grace, and having infallible assurance thereby of the Christian faith.’ To these words the inquisitor replied, “Thou art no Christian, but an absurd heretic, and without conversion a member of perdition.” The prisoner then told him that it was not consistent with the nature and essence of religion and charity to convince by opprobrious speeches, racks, and torments, but by arguments deduced from the Scriptures; and that all other methods would with him be totally ineffectual.

The inquisitor was so enraged at the replies made by the prisoner, that he struck him on the face, used many abusive speeches, and attempted to stab him, which he had certainly done had he not been prevented by the Jesuits; and from this time he never again visited the prisoner.

The next day the two Jesuits returned, and putting on a very grave, supercilious air, the superior asked him what resolution he had taken. To which Mr. Lithgow replied that he was already resolved, unless he could show substantial reasons to make him alter his opinion. The superior, after a pedantic display of their seven sacraments, the intercession of saints, transubstantiation, etc., boasted greatly of their Church, her antiquity, universality, and uniformity; all of which Mr. Lithgow denied: “For (said he) the profession of the faith I hold hath been ever since the first days of the apostles, and Christ had ever his own Church (however obscure) in the greatest time of your darkness.”

The Jesuits, finding their arguments had not the desired effect, that torments could not shake his constancy, nor even the fear of the cruel sentence he had reason to expect would be pronounced and executed on him, after severe menaces, left him. On the eighth day after, being the last of their Inquisition, when sentence is pronounced, they returned again, but quite altered both in their words and behavior after repeating much of the same kind of arguments as before, they with seeming tears in their eyes, pretended they were sorry from their heart he must be obliged to undergo a terrible death, but above all, for the loss of his most precious soul; and falling on their knees, cried out, “Convert, convert, O dear brother, for our blessed Lady’s sake convert!” To which he answered, “I fear neither death nor fire, being prepared for both.”

The first effects Mr. Lithgow felt of the determination of this bloody tribunal was, a sentence to receive that night eleven different tortures, and if he did not die in the execution of them, (which might be reasonably expected from the maimed and disjointed condition he was in) he was, after Easter holy-days, to be carried to Grenada, and there burnt to ashes. The first part of this sentence was executed with great barbarity that night; and it pleased God to give him strength both of body and mind, to stand fast to the truth, and to survive the horrid punishments inflicted on him.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 5

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)