Chapter 16: Persecutions in England During the Reign of Queen Mary (5/48)
Having preached before the king’s majesty, he was soon after made bishop of Gloucester. In that office he continued two years, and behaved himself so well that his very enemies could find no fault with him, and after that he was made bishop of Worcester.
Dr. Hooper executed the office of a most careful and vigilant pastor, for the space of two years and more, as long as the state of religion in King Edward’s time was sound and flourishing.
After he had been cited to appear before Bonner and Dr. Heath, he was led to the Council, accused falsely of owing the queen money, and in the next year, 1554, he wrote an account of his severe treatment during near eighteen months’ confinement in the Fleet, and after his third examination, January 28, 1555, at St. Mary Overy’s, he, with the Rev. Mr. Rogers, was conducted to the Compter in Southwark, there to remain until the next day at nine o’clock, to see whether they would recant. “Come, Brother Rogers,” said Dr. Hooper, “must we two take this matter first in hand, and begin to fry in these fagots?” “Yes, Doctor,” said Mr. Rogers, “by God’s grace.” “Doubt not,” said Dr. Hooper, “but God will give us strength;” and the people so applauded their constancy that they had much ado to pass.
January 29, Bishop Hooper was degraded and condemned, and the Rev. Mr. Rogers was treated in like manner. At dark, Dr. Hooper was led through the city to Newgate; notwithstanding this secrecy, many people came forth to their doors with lights, and saluted him, praising God for his constancy.
During the few days he was in Newgate, he was frequently visited by Bonner and others, but without avail. As Christ was tempted, so they tempted him, and then maliciously reported that he had recanted. The place of his martyrdom being fixed at Gloucester, he rejoiced very much, lifting up his eyes and hands to heaven, and praising God that he saw it good to send him among the people over whom he was pastor, there to confirm with his death the truth which he had before taught them.
On February 7, he came to Gloucester, about five o’clock, and lodged at one Ingram’s house. After his first sleep, he continued in prayer ujntil morning; and all the day, except a little time at his meals, and when conversing such as the guard kindly permitted to speak to him, he spent in prayer.
Sir Anthony Kingston, at one time Dr. Hooper’s good friend, was appointed by the queen’s letters to attend at his execution. As soon as he saw the bishop he burst into tears. WIth tender entreaties he exhorted him to live. “True it is,” said the bishop, “that death is bitter, and life is sweet; but alas! consider that the death to come is more bitter, and the life to come is more sweet.”
The same day a blind boy obtained leave to be brought into Dr.
Hooper’s presence. The same boy, not long before, had suffered imprisonment at Gloucester for confessing the truth. “Ah! poor boy,” said the bishop, “though God hath taken from thee thy outward sight, for what reason He best knoweth, yet He hath endued thy soul with the eye of knowledge and of faith. God give thee grace continually to pray unto Him, that thou lose not that sight, for then wouldst thou indeed be blind both in body and soul.”
When the mayor waited upon him preparatory to his execution, he expressed his perfect obedience, and only requested that a quick fire might terminate his torments. After he had got up in the morning, he desired that no man should be suffered to come into the chamber, that he might be solitary until the hour of execution.
About eight o’clock, on February 9, 1555, he was led forth, and many thousand persons were collected, as it was market-day. All the way, being straitly charged not to speak, and beholding the people, who mourned bitterly for him, he would sometimes lift up his eyes towards heaven, and look very cheerfully upon such as he knew: and he was never known, during the time of his being among them, to look with so cheerful and ruddy a countenance as he did at that time. When he came to the place appointed where he should die, he smilingly beheld the stake and preparation made for him, which was near unto the great elm tree over against the college of priests, where he used to preach.
Now, after he had entered into prayer, a box was brought and laid before him upon a stool, with his pardon from the queen, if he would turn. At the sight whereof he cried, “If you love my soul, away with it!” The box being taken away, Lord Chandois said, “Seeing there is no remedy; despatch him quickly.”
Command was now given that the fire should be kindled. But because there were not more green fagots than two horses could carry, it kindled not speedily, and was a pretty while also before it took the reeds upon the fagots. At length it burned about him, but the wind having full strength at that place, and being a lowering cold morning, it blew the flame from him, so that he was in a manner little more than touched by the fire.
Within a space after, a few dry fagots were brought, and a new fire kindled with fagots, (for there were no more reeds) and those burned at the nether parts, but had small power above, because of the wind, saving that it burnt his hair and scorched his skin a little. In the time of which fire, even as at the first flame, he prayed, saying mildly, and not very loud, but as one without pain, “O Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me, and receive my soul!” After the second fire was spent, he wiped both his eyes with his hands, and beholding the people, he said with an indifferent, loud voice, “For God’s love, good people, let me have more fire!” and all this while his nether parts did burn; but the fagots were so few that the flame only singed his upper parts.