Fox's Book of Martyrs: Dr. Rowland Taylor of Hadley

Taylor Memorial - Andrew Hill (Wikipedia)


Chapter XII

The life and conduct of Dr. Rowland Taylor of Hadley.

Dr. Rowland Taylor, vicar of Hadley, in Suffolk, was a man of eminent learning, and had been admitted to the degree of doctor of the civil and canon law.

His attachment to the pure and uncorrupted principles of christianity recommended him to the favour and friendship of Dr. Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he lived a considerable time, till through his interest he obtained the living of Hadley.

Dr. Taylor promoted the interest of the great Redeemer, and the souls of mankind, both by his preaching and example, during the time of king Edward VI. but on his demise, and the succession of queen Mary to the throne, he escaped not the cloud that burst on so many beside; for two of his parishioners, Foster, an attorney, and Clark, a tradesman, out of blind zeal, resolved that mass should be celebrated, in all its superstitious forms, in the parish church of Hadley, on Monday before Easter; this Dr. Taylor, entering the church, strictly forbade; but Clark forced the Doctor out of the church, celebrated mass, and immediately informed the lord-chancellor, bishop of Winchester of his behaviour, who summoned him to appear, and answer the complaints that were alleged against him.

The doctor upon the receipt of the summons, cheerfully prepared to obey the same; and rejected the advice of his friends to fly beyond sea. When Gardiner saw Dr. Taylor, he, according to his common custom, reviled him. Dr. Taylor heard his abuse patiently, and when the bishop said, How darest thou look me in the face! knowest thou not who I am? Dr. Taylor replied, You are Dr. Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and lord-chancellor, and yet but a mortal man. But if I should be afraid of your lordly looks, why fear ye not God, the Lord of us all? With what countenance will you appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, and answer to your oath made first unto king Henry the Eighth, and afterward unto king Edward the Sixth, his son?

A long conversation ensued, in which Dr. Taylor was so piously collected and severe upon his antagonist, that he exclaimed, Thou art a blasphemous heretic! Thou indeed blasphemist the blessed sacrament, (here he put off his cap) and speakest against the holy mass, which is made a sacrifice for the quick and the dead. The bishop afterward committed him into the king's bench.

When Dr. Taylor came there, he found the virtuous and vigilant preacher of God's word, Mr. Bradford; who equally thanked God that he had provided him with such a comfortable fellow-prisoner; and they both together praised God, and continued in prayer, reading and exhorting one another.

After that Dr. Taylor had lain some time in prison, he was cited to appear in the arches of Bow-church.

Dr. Taylor being condemned, was committed to the Clink, and the keepers were charged to treat him roughly; at night he was removed to the Poultry Compter.

When Dr. Taylor had lain in the Compter about a week, on the 4th of February, Bonner came to degrade him, bringing with him such ornaments as appertained to the massing mummery; but the Doctor refused these trappings till they were forced upon him.

The night after he was degraded, his wife came with John Hull, his servant, and his son Thomas, and were by the gentleness of the keepers permitted to sup with him.

After supper, walking up and down, he gave God thanks for his grace, that had so called him and given him strength to abide by his holy word and turning to his son Thomas, he exhorted him to piety and filial obedience in the most earnest manner.

Dr. Taylor, about two o'clock in the morning, was conveyed to the Woolpack, Aldgate, and had an affecting interview with his wife and daughter, and a female orphan he had brought up who had waited all night in St. Botolph's porch, to see him pass, before being delivered to the sheriff of Essex. On coming out of the gates, John Hull, his good servant, stood at the rails with Thomas, (Dr. Taylor's son.) This, said he, is my own son. Then he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and prayed for his son and blessed him.

At Chelmsford the sheriff of Suffolk met them, there to receive him, and to carry him into Suffolk. Being at supper, the sheriff of Essex very earnestly besought him to return to the popish religion, thinking with fair words to persuade him. When they had all drunk to him, and the cup was come to him, he said, Mr. Sheriff, and my masters all, I heartily thank you for your good will. I have hearkened to your words, and marked well your counsels. And to be plain with you, I perceive that I have been deceived myself, and am like to deceive a great many in Hadley of their expectations. At these words they all rejoiced, but the Doctor had a meaning very remote from theirs. He alluded to the disappointment that the worms would have in not being able to feast upon his portly and goodly body, which they would have done if, instead of being burnt, he had been buried.

When the sheriff and his company heard him speak thus, they were amazed, marvelling at the constant mind that could thus without fear make a jest of the cruel torments and death now at hand, prepared for him. At Chelmsford he was delivered to the sheriff of Suffolk, and by him conducted to Hadley.

When Dr. Taylor had arrived at Aldham-Common, the place where he should suffer, seeing a great multitude of people, he asked, What place is this, and what meaneth it that so much people are gathered hither? It was answered, It is Aldham-Common, the place where you must suffer; and the people are come to look upon you. Then he said, Thanked be God, I am even at home; and he alighted from his horse and with both hands rent the hood from his head.

His head had been notched and clipped like as a man would clip a fool's; which cost the good bishop Bonner had bestowed upon him. But when the people saw his reverend and ancient face, with a long[214] white beard, they burst out with weeping tears, and cried, saying, God save thee, good Dr. Taylor! Jesus Christ strengthen thee, and help thee! the Holy Ghost comfort thee! with such other like good wishes.

When he had prayed, he went to the stake and kissed it, and set himself into a pitch barrel, which they had put for him to stand in, and stood with his back upright against the stake, with his hands folded together, and his eyes towards heaven, and continually prayed.

They then bound him with the chains, and having set up the fagots, one Warwick cruelly cast a fagot at him which struck him on his head, and cut his face, so that the blood ran down. Then said Dr. Taylor, O friend, I have harm enough, what needed that?

Sir John Shelton standing by, as Dr. Taylor was speaking, and saying the psalm Miserere in English, struck him on the lips: You knave, said he, speak Latin: I will make thee. At last they kindled the fire; and Dr. Taylor holding up both his hands, calling upon God, and said, Merciful Father of heaven! for Jesus Christ, my Saviour's sake, receive my soul into thy hands! So he stood still without either crying or moving, with his hands folded together, till Soyce, with a halberd struck him on the head till his brains fell out, and the corpse fell down into the fire.

Thus rendered up this man of God his blessed soul into the hands of his merciful Father, and to his most dear Saviour Jesus Christ, whom he most entirely loved, faithfully and earnestly preached, obediently followed in living, and constantly glorified in death.

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