The history of Dr. Rowland Taylor, who suffered for the truth of God's word, under the tyranny of the Roman bishops,
the ninth day of February, A. D. 1555.
Illustration -- Ancient Gateway, Hadleigh
The town of Hadley was one of the first that received the word of God in all England, at the preaching of Master
Thomas Bilney: by whose industry the gospel of Christ had such gracious success, and took such root there, that a
great number of that parish became exceeding well learned in the Holy Scriptures, as well women as men, so that a
man might have found among them many, that had often read the whole Bible through, and that could have said a
great sort of St. Paul's Epistles by heart, and very well and readily have given a godly learned sentence in any matter
of controversy. Their children and servants were also brought up and trained so diligently in the right knowledge of
God's word, that the whole town seemed rather a university of the lcarned, than a town of cloth-making or labouring
people: and (what most is to be commended) they were for the more part faithful followers of God's word in their living.
In this town was Dr. Rowland Taylor, doctor in both the civil and canon laws, and a right perfect divine, parson;
who, at his first entering into his benefice, did not, as the common sort of beneficed men do, let out his benefice to
a farmer, that shall gather up the profits, and set in an ignorant, unlearned priest to serve the cure, and, so they
have the fleece, little or nothing care for feeding the flock: but, contrarily, he forsook the archbishop of Canterbury,
Thomas Cranmer, with whom he before was in household, and made his personal abode and dwelling in Hadley,
among the people committed to his charge; where he, as a good shepherd, abiding and dwelling among his sheep,
gave himself wholly to the study of Holy Scriptures, most faithfully endeavouring himself to fulfil that charge which the Lord gave unto Peter, saying, Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my lambs, feed my sheep, feed my sheep. This love of Christ so wrought in him, that no Sunday nor holy-day passed, nor other time when he might get the people together, but he preached to them the word of God, the doctrine of their salvation.
Not only was his word a preaching unto them, but all his life and conversation was an example of unfeigned Christian life and true holiness. He was void of all pride, humble and meek, as any child: so that none were so poor but they might boldly, as unto their father, resort unto him; neither was his lowliness childish or fearful, but, as occasion, time, and place required, he would be stout in rebuking sinful and evil doers; so that none was so rich but he would tell him plainly his fault, with such earnest and grave rebukes as became a good curate and pastor. He was a man very mild, void of all rancour, grudge, or evil will; ready to do good to all men; readily forgiving his enemies; and never sought to do evil to any.
To the poor that were blind, lame, sick, bedrid, or that had many children, he was a very father, a careful patron, and diligent provider; insomuch that he caused the parishioners to make a general provision for them: and he himself (beside the continual relief that they always found at his house) gave an honest portion yearly to the common alms-box. His wife also was an honest, discreet, and sober matron, and his children well nurtured, brought up in the fear of God and good learning.
To conclude, he was a right and lively image or pattern of all those virtuous qualities described by St. Paul in a true bishop: a good salt of the earth, savourly biting the corrupt manners of evil men; a light in God's house, set upon a candlestick for all good men to imitate and follow.
Thus continued this good shepherd among his flock, governing and leading them through the wilderness of this wicked world,
all the days of the most innocent and holy king of blessed memory, Edward the Sixth. But after it pleased God to take King
Edward from this vale of misery unto his most blessed rest, the papists, who ever sembled and dissembled, both with King
Henry the Eighth and King Edward his son, now seeing the time convenient for their purpose, uttered their false hypocrisy,
openly refusing all good reformation made by the said two most godly kings; and, contrary to that they had all these two kings'
days preached, taught, written, and sworn, they violently overthrew the true doctrine of the gospel, and persecuted with sword
and fire all those that would not agree to receive again the Roman bishop as supreme head of the universal church, and allow
all the errors, superstitions, and idolatries, that before by God's word were disproved and justly condemned, as though now they
were good doctrine, virtuous, and true religion.
In the beginning of this rage of antichrist, a certain petty gentleman, after the sort of a lawyer, called Foster, being a steward
and keeper of courts, a man of no great skill, but a bitter persecutor in those days, with one John Clerk of Hadley, which Foster
had ever been a secret favourer of all Romish idolatry, conspired with the said Clerk to bring in the pope and his maumetry
again into Hadley church. For as yet Dr. Taylor, as a good shepherd, had retained and kept in his church the godly church
service and reformation made by King Edward, and most faithfully and earnestly preached against the popish corruptions,
which had infected the whole country round about.
Therefore the foresaid Foster and Clerk hired one John Averth, parson of Aldham, a very money mammonist, a blind leader
of the blind, a popish idolater, and an open advouterer and whoremonger, a very fit minister for their purpose, to come to Hadley,
and there to give the onset to begin again the popish mass.
To this purpose they builded up with all haste possible the altar, intending to bring in their mass again about the Palm Monday.
But this their device took none effect; for in the night the altar was beaten down: wherefore they built it up again the second time, and laid diligent watch, lest any should again break it down.
On the day following came Foster and John Clerk, bringing with them their popish sacrificer, who brought with him all his implements and garments to play his popish pageant, whom they and their men guarded with swords and bucklers, lest any man should disturb him in his missal sacrifice.
When Dr. Taylor, who, according to his custom, sat at his book studying the word of God, heard the bells ringing, he arose and went into the church, supposing something had been there to be done, according to his pastoral office: and, coming to the church, he found the church doors shut and fast barred, saving the chancel door, which was only latched. Where he, entering in, and coming in the chancel, saw a popish sacrificer in his robes, with a broad new-shaven crown, ready to begin his popish sacrifice, beset round about with drawn swords and bucklers, lest any man should approach to disturb him.
Then said Dr. Taylor, "Thou devil! who made thee so bold to enter into this church of Christ to profane and defile it with this abominable idolatry?" With that started up Foster, and with an ireful and furious countenance said to Dr. Taylor, "Thou traitor! what dost thou here, to let and disturb the queen's proceedings?" Dr. Taylor answered, "I am no traitor, but I am the shepherd that God my Lord Christ hath appointed to feed this his flock: wherefore I have good authority to be here; and I command thee, thou popish wolf, in the name of God to avoid hence, and not to presume here, with such popish idolatry, to poison Christ's flock."
Then said Foster, "Wilt thou traitorously, heretic! make a commotion, and resist violently the queen's proceedings?"
Dr. Taylor answered, "I make no commotion; but it is you papists, that make commotions and tumults. I resist only with God's word against your popish idolatries, which are against God's word, the queen's honour, and tend to the utter subversion of this realm of England. And further, thou dost against the canon law, which commandeth, that no mass be said but at a consecrated altar."
When the parson of Aldham heard that, he began to shrink back, and would have left his saying of mass: then started up John Clerk, and said, "Master Averth, be not afraid, you have a superaltare, go forth with your business, man."
Then Foster, with his armed men, took Dr. Taylor, and led him with strong hand out of the church; and the popish prelate proceeded in his Romish idolatry. Dr. Taylor's wife, who followed her husband into the church, when she saw her husband thus violently thrust out of his church, she kneeled down and held up her hands, and with a loud voice said, "I beseech God, the righteous Judge, to avenge this injury, that this popish idolater to this day doth to the blood of Christ." Then they thrust her out of the church also, and shut the doors; for they feared that the people would have rent their sacrificer in pieces. Notwithstanding one or two threw in great stones at the windows, and missed very little the popish masser.
Thus you see how, without consent of the people, the popish mass was again set up with battle array, with swords and bucklers, with violence and tyranny: which practice the papists have ever yet used. As for reason, law, or Scripture, they have none on their part. Therefore they are the same that say, "The law of unrighteousness is our strength: come, let us oppress the righteous without any fear," &c.
Within a day or two after, with all haste possible, this Foster and Clerk made a complaint of Dr. Taylor, by a letter written to Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, and lord chancellor.
When the bishop heard this, he sent a letter missive to Dr. Taylor, commanding him within certain days to come and to appear before him upon his allegiance, to answer such complaints as were made against him.
When Dr. Taylor's friends heard of this, they were exceeding sorry and aggrieved in mind; which when foreseeing to what end the same matter would come, seeing also all truth and justice were trodden under foot, and falsehood with cruel tyranny were set aloft and ruled all the whole rout: his friends, I say, came to him and earnestly counselled him to depart and fly, alleging and declaring unto him, that he could neither be indifferently heard to speak his conscience and mind, nor yet look for justice or favour at the said chancellor's hands, who, as it was well known, was most fierce and cruel; but must needs (if he went up to him) wait for imprisonment and cruel death at his hands.
Then said Dr. Taylor to his friends, "Dear friends, I most heartily thank you, for that you have so tender a care over me. And although I know that there is neither justice nor truth to be looked for at my adversaries' hands, but rather imprisonment and cruel death; yet know I my cause to be so good and righteous, and the truth so strong upon my side, that I will, by God's grace, go and appear before them, and to their beards resist their false doing."
Then said his friends, "Master Doctor, we think it not best so to do. You have sufficiently done your duty, and testified the truth, both by your godly sermons, and also in resisting the parson of Aldham, with others that came hither to bring again the popish mass. And forasmuch as our Saviour Christ willeth and biddeth us, that when they persecute us in one city, we should fly into another; we think, in flying at this time ye should do best, keeping yourself against another time, when the church shall have great need of such diligent teachers and godly pastors."
"Oh," quoth Dr. Taylor, "what will ye have me to do? I am now old, and have already lived too long, to see these terrible and most wicked days. Fly you, and do as your conscience leadeth you; I am fully determined (with God's grace) to go to the bishop, and to his beard to tell him that he doth naught. God shall well hereafter raise up teachers of his people, which shall, with much more diligence and fruit, teach them, than I have done. For God will not forsake his church, though now for a time he trieth and correcteth us, and not without a just cause.
"As for me, I believe before God, I shall never be able to do God so good service, as I may do now; nor I shall ever have so glorious a calling as I now have, nor so great mercy of God proffered me, as is now at this present. For what Christian man would not gladly die against the pope and his adherents? I know that the papacy is the kingdom of antichrist, altogether full of lies, altogether full of falsehood; so that all their doctrine, even from 'Christ's cross be my speed,' and St. Nicholas, unto the end of their apocalypse, is nothing but idolatry, superstition, errors, hypocrisy, and lies.
"Wherefore I beseech you, and all other my friends, to pray for me; and I doubt not but God will give me strength and his Holy Spirit, that all mine adversaries shall have shame of their doings."
When his friends saw him so constant, and fully determined to go, they, with weeping eyes, commended him unto God; and he within a day or two prepared himself to his journey, leaving his cure with a godly old priest, named Sir Richard Yeoman, who afterwards, for God's truth, was burnt at Norwich.
There was also in Hadley one Alcock, a very godly man, well learned in the Holy Scriptures, who, after Sir Richard Yeoman was driven away, used daily to read a chapter, and to say the English litany in Hadley church. But him they fetched up to London, and cast him in prison in Newgate; where, after a year's imprisonment, he died.
But let us return to Dr. Taylor again, who, being accompanied with a servant of his own, named John Hull, took his journey towards London. By the way this John Hull laboured to counsel and persuade him very earnestly to fly, and not come to the bishop; and proffered himself to go with him to serve him, and in all perils to venture his life for him, and with him.
But in no wise would Dr. Taylor consent or agree thereunto; but said, "O John! shall I give place to this thy counsel and worldly persuasion, and leave my flock in this danger? Remember the good Shepherd Christ, which not alone fed his flock, but also died for his flock. Him must I follow, and, with God's grace, will do. Therefore, good John, pray for me; and if thou seest me weak at any time, comfort me; and discourage me not in this my godly enterprise and purpose."
Thus they came up to London, and shortly after Dr. Taylor presented himself to the bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, then lord chancellor of England. For this hath been one great abuse in England these many years, that such offices as have been of most importance and weight, have commonly been committed to bishops and other spiritual men, whereby three devilish mischiefs and inconveniences have happened in this realm, to the great dishonour of God, and utter neglecting of the flock of Christ; the which three be these.
First, they have had small leisure to attend to their pastoral cures, which thereby have been utterly neglected and left undone.
Secondly, it hath also puffed up many bishops, and other spiritual persons, into such haughtiness and pride, that they have thought no nobleman in the realm worthy to be their equal and fellow.
Thirdly, where they, by this means, knew the very secrets of princes, they, being in such high offices, have caused the same to be known in Rome, afore the kings could accomplish and bring their intents to pass in England. By this means hath the papacy been so maintained, and things ordered after their wills and pleasures, that much mischief hath happened in this realm and others, sometimes to the destruction of princes, and sometimes to the utter undoing of many commonwealths.