Fox's Book of Martyrs: Martyrdom of Tomkins, Pygot, Knight, Lawrence, Hunter, and Higbed.
Thomas Tomkins was by trade a weaver in Shoreditch, till he was summoned before the inhuman Bonner, and confined with many others, who renounced the errors of popery, in a prison in that tyrant's house at Fulham.
Under his confinement, he was treated by the bishop not only unbecoming a prelate, but even a man; for the savage, because Tomkins would not assent to the doctrine of transubstantiation, bruised him in the face, and plucked off the greatest part of the hair of his beard.
On another occasion, this scandal to humanity, in the presence of many who came to visit at Fulham, took this poor honest man by the fingers, and held his hand directly over the flame of a wax candle having three or four wicks, supposing that, being terrified by the smart and pain of the fire, he would leave off the defence of the doctrine which he had received.
Tomkins thinking no otherwise, but there presently to die, began to commend himself unto the Lord, saying, O Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit. All the time that his hand was burning the same Tomkins afterward reported to one James Hinse, that his spirit was so rapt, that he felt no pain. In which burning he never shrank till the veins shrank, and the sinews burst and the water spurted into Mr. Harpsfield's face: insomuch that Mr. Harpsfield, moved with pity, desired the bishop to stay, saying, that he had tried him enough.
After undergoing two examinations, and refusing to swerve from his duty and belief, he was commanded to appear before the bishop.
Agreeably to this mandate, being brought before the bloody tribunal of bishops, and pressed to recant his errors and return to the mother church, he maintained his fidelity, nor would swerve in the least from the articles he had signed with his own hand. Having therefore declared him an obstinate heretic, they delivered him up to the secular power, and he was burned in Smithfield, March 16th, 1555, triumphant in the midst of the flames, and adding to the noble company of martyrs, who had preceded him through the path of the fiery trial to the realms of immortal glory.
William Hunter had been trained to the doctrines of the reformation from his earliest youth, being descended from religious parents, who carefully instructed him in the principles of the true religion.
Hunter, then nineteen years of age, refusing to receive the communion at mass, was threatened to be brought before the bishop; to whom this valiant young martyr was conducted by a constable.
Bonner caused William to be brought into a chamber, where he began to reason with him, promising him security and pardon if he would recant. Nay, he would have been content if he would have gone only to receive and to confession, but William would not do so for all the world.
Upon this the bishop commanded his men to put William in the stocks in his gate-house, where he sat two days and nights, with a crust of brown bread and a cup of water only, which he did not touch.
At the two days' end, the bishop came to him, and finding him steadfast in the faith, sent him to the convict prison, and commanded the keeper to lay irons upon him as many as he could bear. He continued in prison three quarters of a year, during which time he had been before the bishop five times, besides the time when he was condemned in the consistory in St. Paul's, February 9th, at which time his brother, Robert Hunter, was present.
Then the bishop, calling William, asked him if he would recant, and finding he was unchangeable, he pronounced sentence upon him, that he should go from that place to Newgate for a time, and thence to Brentwood, there to be burned.
About a month afterward, William was sent down to Brentwood, where he was to be executed. On coming to the stake, he knelt down and read the 51st psalm, till he came to these words, "The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and a broken heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Steadfast in refusing the queen's pardon, if he would become an apostate, at length one Richard Ponde, a bailiff, came, and made the chain fast about him.
William now cast his psalter into his brother's hand, who said William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death. Behold, answered William, I am not afraid. Then he lifted up his hands to heaven, and said, Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit and casting down his head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.
About the same time William Pygot, Stephen Knight, and Rev. John Lawrence, were burnt as heretics, by order of the infamous Bonner. Thomas Higbed and Thomas Causton shared the same fate.
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