Chapter 16: Persecutions in England During the Reign of Queen Mary (37/48)

Mrs. Prest for some time lived about Cornwall, where she had a husband and children, whose bigotry compelled her to frequent the abominations of the Church of Rome. Resolving to act as her conscience dictated, she quitted them, and made a living by spinning. After some time, returning home, she was accused by her neighbors, and brought to Exeter, to be examined before Dr. Troubleville, and his chancellor Blackston. As this martyr was accounted of inferior intellect, we shall put her in competition with the bishop, and let the reader judge which had the most of that knowledge conducive to everlasting life. The bishop bringing the question to issue, respecting the bread and wine being flesh and blood, Mrs. Prest said, “I will demand of you whether you can deny your creed, which says, that Christ doth perpetually sit at the right hand of His Father, both body and soul, until He come again; or whether He be there in heaven our Advocate, and to make prayer for us unto God His Father? If He be so, He is not here on earth in a piece of bread. If He be not here, and if He do not dwell in temples made with hands, but in heaven, what! shall we seek Him here? If He did not offer His body once for all, why make you a new offering? If with one offering He made all perfect, why do you with a false offering make all imperfect? If He be to be worshipped in spirit and in truth, why do you worship a piece of bread? If He be eaten and drunken in faith and truth, if His flesh be not profitable to be among us, why do you say you make His flesh and blood, and say it is profitable for body and soul? Alas! I am a poor woman, but rather than to do as you do, I would live no longer. I have said, Sir.”

Bishop. I promise you, you are a jolly Protestant. I pray you in what school have you been brought up?

Mrs. Prest. I have upon the Sundays visited the sermons, and there have I learned such things as are so fixed in my breast, that death shall not separate them.

B. O foolish woman, who will waste his breath upon thee, or such as thou art? But how chanceth it that thou wentest away from thy husband? If thou wert an honest woman, thou wouldst not have left thy husband and children, and run about the country like a fugitive.

Mrs. P. Sir, I labored for my living; and as my Master Christ counselleth me, when I was persecuted in one city, I fled into another.

B. Who persecuted thee?

Mrs. P. My husband and my children. For when I would have them to leave idolatry, and to worship God in heaven, he would not hear me, but he with his children rebuked me, and troubled me. I fled not for whoredom, nor for theft, but because I would be no partaker with him and his of that foul idol the Mass; and wheresoever I was, as oft as I could, upon Sundays and holydays. I made excuses not to go to the popish Church.

B. Belike then you are a good housewife, to fly from your husband the Church.

Mrs. P. My housewifery is but small; but God gave me grace to go to the true Church.

B. The true Church, what dost thou mean?

Mrs. P. Not your popish Church, full of idols and abominations, but where two or three are gathered together in the name of God, to that Church will I go as long as I live.

B. Belike then you have a church of your own. Well, let this mad woman be put down to prison until we send for her husband.

Mrs. P. No, I have but one husband, who is here already in this city, and in prison with me, from whom I will never depart.

Some persons present endeavoring to convince the bishop she was not in her right senses, she was permitted to depart. The keeper of the bishop’s prisons took her into his house, where she either spun worked as a servant, or walked about the city, discoursing upon the Sacrament of the altar. Her husband was sent for to take her home, but this she refused while the cause of religion could be served. She was too active to be idle, and her conversation, simple as they affected to think her, excited the attention of several Catholic priests and friars. They teased her with questions, until she answered them angrily, and this excited a laugh at her warmth.

“Nay,” said she, “you have more need to weep than to laugh, and to be sorry that ever you were born, to be the chaplains of that whore of Babylon. I defy him and all his falsehood; and get you away from me, you do but trouble my conscience. You would have me follow your doings; I will first lose my life. I pray you depart.”

“Why, thou foolish woman,” said they, “we come to thee for thy profit and soul’s health.” To which she replied, “What profit ariseth by you, that teach nothing but lies for truth? how save you souls, when you preach nothing but lies, and destroy souls?”

“How provest thou that?” said they.

[…]

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 16

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