1Pe 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
At a time when religious persecution is largely tempered by our legal systems, it is surprising that morally minded people still cleave to the Roman Catholic Church. A clear headed look at British history alone, should convince most people that such religious power holds are evil.
Over the centuries devout men and women have sought to maintain the purity of the scriptures, and enraged the religious tyrants of the time.
In 1428, Abraham, a monk from the abbey at Colchester with Milburn White and John Wade, both Catholic priests were apprehended on a charge of heresy.
These three men were held guilty of rejecting transubstantiation, claiming that the elements used in the Lords Supper remained unchanged. The Catholics claimed that the wine became the blood of Christ and that the bread became the flesh of Christ. These men objected to this claiming that Christ was sacrificed but once, and not at each mass. They asserted that the Lords Supper is a memorial, not a sacrifice as it had become under Catholicism.
They had rejected their positions within the Catholic Church teaching that all Christians are priests, upholding the universal priesthood of believers. For this they quoted from the book of Revelation He hath made us kings and priests unto our God.
They taught: That no man is bound to keep Lent and other Popish holy days. That the Pope is the antichrist. That priests may marry. That pilgrimages are not found in the Scriptures. That images and relics are not to be worshipped. That prayer in all places is acceptable to God. That saints are not to be prayed to. That the ringing of bells only served to fill the purses of the priests, as in this time period the Catholic Church claimed the ringing of bells frightened away devils who lurked beside the beds of those who were dying.
They renounced the Catholic Church; teaching that the true Church is the congregation, the faithful of Christ, those that had been added by the Lord through baptism into His one Church, rejecting infant baptism.
It would seem that Milburn White first shared these beliefs with the other two, who had then adopted them. They were found preaching the Gospel and arrested.
Milburn White had resigned from the Catholic Church and married a lady called Joan.
White was burned alive by the Bishop of Norwich. In September 1428 White became the first martyr to make his way down Bishopsgate, Norwich and over Bishopsbridge to the Lollards Pit. Led by local priests and followed by a crowd both curious and excited at the approaching spectacle White was forced to carry his own fagot, the very wood that would be placed at his feet to start the fire.
Whilst the crowd following behind were happy to shout abuse and throw rubbish at White, possibly the greatest indignity came at the end of Bishopsgate. As he passed the houses on each side of the street the occupants opened their bedroom windows and emptied their chamber pots over him.
When he tried to preach at the stake to those watching a servant of the Bishop injured him sufficiently to prevent him talking further, by hitting him hard in the mouth, silencing him. He had refused to recant and died for his heresy.
Soon after this Abraham too suffered the same fate at Colchester, along with John Waddon. John Wade was taken to London where he to died by being burnt alive.
Many other folk from the Colchester and Norwich areas were arrested. Most stood fast in the faith, suffering the flames of Popish oppression.
At the same time thirty-six people were found guilty of the same crimes. They were taken to St. Giles fields, London (where Lord Cobham had been burnt alive). They were hung on gibbets and slowly strangled, whilst fires were lit below their feet. Catholic Priests looked on, gladly triumphant. Of those who suffered, only one name has come down to us, Sir Roger Archer. He was dealt with differently in that he was stripped naked first, and then executed in the same manner.
In 1431, Thomas Bagley, a priest who was based in Malden, Essex was caught preaching the gospel. He was brought to Smithfields, London and was burnt alive.
Again in 1439 another priest was caught preaching the gospel. Richard Wick was burnt alive on Tower Hill.
In the year 1499, a gentleman called Brabram was caught preaching the gospel in Norwich. He was not a member of the Catholic Church. He too died in the flames of Popish arrogance, remaining steadfast to the end.
Under such persecution the Lords Church survived. Congregations being autonomous were able to meet in secret. But Catholic Priests knew their parishes well. Those not attending mass were sought out. After arrest torture would follow to encourage the unfortunate victim of the Pope to abjure. When this failed they would be offered to the flames. Sometimes death was quick, though I doubt for the victim fast enough. Sometimes a kind executioner would knock the brains out of a suffering victim. Other times if the wood burnt slowly and the wind blew in the wrong direction, death could take many hours.
An example of the cruelty meted out is that of Mr Collins in 1538. Collins was a Catholic and mentally subnormal. He was known as an idiot without common sense. In the terms of the day, a madman. He had no religious affiliations other than being a Catholic. During mass at a church in London, when the priest lifted up the host, Collins lifted up his dog. He was arrested, along with his dog and taken immediately to Smithfields. Both were burnt alive.
People recognised that he was wrong; the feeling at the time being that he should have been tied to a cart and whipped, or sent to the madhouse. But people felt that there was no excuse for the scene of cruelty that took place.
Questions were asked which the Catholic Church has never answered. For the dog to be burnt under Church law it had to be excommunicated first, but before you can excommunicate a dog, it would have to have been baptised!
Equally the same applied to poor Collins, whilst he was baptised into the Catholic Church, he was not excommunicated before burning. His burning was murder by the laws of the time, yet the church was so evil and so powerful it could murder in this way without trial and laugh at the questioning of this illegal act.
Objections were raised then, and the same questions still remain unanswered. Under Catholic and English law at that time, Collins was murdered by the Catholic Church, which to this day has remained unrepentant.
Within a year or so the Church of England became Anglican, but the same punishment of burning alive was still meted out to those in disagreement with it, including those who sought to baptise believers.
It was normal practise for the Catholic Church to force the spouse or children of the victim to light the faggots, and then watch their relatives suffering close up. There is no evidence that the Catholic priests and church hierarchy was anything other than thoroughly gratified by the suffering of their victims.
This was their greatest mistake, because right thinking people who saw the suffering of the Popes victims learnt the importance of the gospel through the shear cruelty being shown. Far from the Lords church being extinguished by the flames of persecution, it won fervent appeal throughout Britain.
It is shameful that today Catholic historians tend to dismiss this savage and cruel time and to continue to defend the actions of their church, arguing heresy rather than admitting from their own evidence that these many of these people were doing nothing other than following scripture.
In the 1420/30s in Colchester, England, heretics called by the derisory name 'Lollards' were active, they dismissed the Catholic Church including baptism of infants and were meeting separately. The date is important because these events were ninety years before the reformation (1517). 'Heresy' coming out of Colchester would be continuous, later they would be known as Anabaptists. From Colchester the journey to both London (54 miles) and by sea to Holland was easy. For the next two hundred years links between Christians in Holland, London and Colchester was ongoing. If persecution made staying in one place too dangerous, they would move to one of the other two. The traffic was both ways with Christians from Europe coming to England, and from England to Holland. Links were established in London which remained into the 1600s. When printing was invented, literature would be produced in Holland and brought to Colchester. When the Mayflower in 1620 set sail for America, many of the passengers had to avoid persecution spent time in Colchester, Holland and London. It is these links that pre-date the English churches of Christ prior to the reformation by nearly 100 years. It has been taught that Reformation lead to Restoration, where the two are entirely separate. Restoration, or planting to seed will occur wherever faithful brethren following the scriptures establish a congregation - Matt 13.
Next - Sir William Oldcastle